The Hague, March 21, 2011 (FH) - Defence of former Congolese rebel Germain Katanga will open its case next Wednesday by calling upon its first witness before the International Criminal Court (ICC). It will be the first time in ICC history that a trial reaches this step.

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Germain Katanga, nick-named "Simba" (lion in kiswahili) was commander of the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri, FRPI). He is accused alongside Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, former leader of the Front des nationalistes et intégrationnistes, (National Integrationist Front, FNI), of three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, notably for their alleged role in the attack of Bogoro on February 24, 2003 where over 200 people were killed.

The Katanga case is the second trial held by the ICC concerning events in Ituri. Last year, prosecution called 24 witnesses to the bar.  According to Deputy Prosecutor Eric MacDonald, the two accused intended to "wipe Bogoro off the map" and acted together to do so.

Katanga's defence will call 22 witnesses to the bar. The accused might testify on his own defence. Mathieu Ngudjolo is then expected to call 19 witnesses to the stand.

The investigation on the crimes committed in DRC started in June 2004. Katanga was arrested and transferred to The Hague on October 17, 2007 and Mathieu Ngudjolo was arrested on February 6, 2008 and transferred to The Hague the following day. Their trial opened on November 24, 2009.

Germain Katanga's lawyer requested the right for his client to meet with his witnesses after their testimony : "Such visits are of particular importance for Mr Katanga, given that he has been detained for six years... Three years of that time was spent detained in Kinshasa with little or no opportunity for visits from people based in Ituri. The past three years have been spent in The Hague with obviously very limited contact with family or acquaintances. This constitutes a protracted period of relative isolation... It would be right and fair that they be permitted such visits".


© Hirondelle News Agency