Paris, May 26, 2011 (FH) - Testifying since Wednesday before the International Criminal Court (ICC), a friend of Germain Katanga's wife has portrayed a man living " in harmony" with civilians, who never had any problems with the Hema population.

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Code-named D161, the defence witness is a childhood friend of Denise, Katanga's wife. She met the accused for the first time when she was 15 at Komanda where she went to school. She then saw him again in September 2002 when she settled down in Aveba, a village in Ituri (Eastern Congo).

Germain Katanga had become commander of the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (Patriotic Resistance Force in Ituri, FRPI). Based in Aveba, this militia attacked Hemas from Bogoro in February 2003.

Katanga is accused of three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, notably for his alleged role in the attack of Bogoro on February 24, 2003 where over 200 people were killed.

The witness did not attend the massacres. However, she claims that "Germain Katanga was living in great harmony with Aveba civilians. He was not beating anyone, nor did he confiscate people's goods... He didn't have any problems with the Hemas living or coming to Aveba".

"These Hemas came from Bunia, the witness explained. They had fled the fighting between Lendu and Ngiti. Germain Katanga was giving them movement orders for them to reach the road leading to North Kivu".

According to the prosecution, women from Bogoro were raped and taken to military camps where they served as "spouses" for soldiers. Some of them were also allegedly kept in Camp BCA's jail, which Katanga was one of the commanders.

However, the witness said that she never heard about "sexual slavery" when she came to the camp with her religious choir.

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


© Hirondelle News Agency