Germain Katanga, who was transferred to the United Nations detention center in The Hague on 17 October, is the second accused arrested on an ICC arrest warrant.
The first, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a Congolese and alleged founder of the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC), was arrested on 17 March 2006. His trial is still in the pre-trial phase, hearings are scheduled this week to discuss the role of the victims before and during the trial.
Katanga, also called "Simba", was handed over to the ICC by the Congolese authorities, who had held him since 2005, on an arrest warrant issued by the Court on 2 July 2007, and made public on 18 October 2007. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has been investigating the situation in the DRC since 1 July 2002.
Since 2003, Katanga would be the military leader of the Patriotic Force of Resistance for Ituri (FRPI), armed wing of the Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI). According to Human Rights Watch, this group, of the Lendu ethnic group, is responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in this area of North-Eastern Congo. Katanga is accused of having committed six war crimes and three crimes against humanity.
Pre-trial chamber I affirms in the arrest warrant that it has all the reasonable motives to believe that Katanga, in his capacity as senior officer in the FRPI, "contributed in a essential manner to the setting into action of the common plan" at the time of the attack against the village of Bogoro, in Ituri, 24 February 2003 or close to this date, "by planning it and commanding his subordinates to carry out it".
According to the arrest warrant, during and after the Bogoro attack, directed mainly against civilians of the Hema ethnic group, other criminal acts were committed, such as murders, serious physical attacks on civilians, arrests and threats, looting, forced sexual slavery of several women and girls and the active participation of children less than 15 years-old in the aforementioned attack.
The chamber also brings forth elements according to which the attack against Bogoro fell under the context of a war on the territory of Ituri and that it was jointly launched by the FRPI and the FNI within the framework of a systematic and generalized attack which, at least between January and March 2003, targeted the civilian population of certain parts of Ituri, mainly Hemas.
Katanga‘s first appearance hearing was held on 22 October in The Hague, where the ICC is located. The defendant was represented, at his request, by Xavier Jean Keita, an official of the Office of the Council for the Defence of the Court, while awaiting the appointment of another lawyer for the continuation of the procedure.
Right from the beginning of the hearing, Katanga wished to be informed in Lingala because he affirms to not understand French very well, the language in which, however, the procedure has been conducted since the beginning. Two interpreters were granted to him on a purely provisional basis. This assertion calls, however, into question all the procedure of article 67 of the statute of the ICC affirming that the defendant has the right to be addressed in "a language the accused fully understand and speaks". The president of the chamber, however reminded, on the basis of detailed documents filed by the Registry, that Katanga understood and spoke fluently French and Swahili.
The defence also considered it regrettable that its client could not receive his family during his two years and half detention in Kinshasa. Keita, on the other hand, revealed that a representative the NGO Human Rights Watch, Mrs Anneke Woundenberg, had come to question him in his cell. He was astonished that she asked precise questions about looting, crimes against humanity and war crimes, facts mentioned in the arrest warrant.
© Hirondelle News Agency