The Hague, October 6, 2011 (FH) - Former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga stated on Thursday before the International Criminal Court (ICC) that he was not in Bogoro the day he allegedly led an attack of the village.

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Katanga is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged role in the attack of Bogoro (Ituri, Eastern DRC) on February 24, 2003 when over 200 people were killed.

Testifying in his own defence, he told his lead Counsel David Hooper that on February 24, he was in Aveba, a few kilometers distant from Bogoro. "I had to watch the ammunition and protect my people", he explained.

That day, he heard shots. "I took my motorcycle and I rode to the Care Center. There, they told me there had been an attack in Bogoro which had started at dawn".

Katanga told the court the attack was launched by a militiaman named Garimbaya with the backing of about fifty men.

Katanga was the alleged leader of the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force (FRPI) at the time of the attack. However, he stressed that the FRPI was an informal organization: "We were called farmers, then self-defence militia, then fighters, so we picked-up a name, FRPI. You can't say that you are a soldier coming from the farm, no?"

He denied having been the FRPI leader. "There was no structure, no secretary general, no president", he asserted.

About the killing of civilians, Germain Katanga assumed they had not been targeted on purpose.

With respect to the numerous rapes committed in Bogoro, he argued that most villagers could not even conceive the idea of rape. "At home, if you sleep with a girl just because you get on well with her, but without going through traditional ceremonies, it's a taboo. You are not going to chat up a girl and sleep with her just like that! So if sleeping with a girl with her consent is a taboo, how could you possibly rape her?".

Mathieu Ngudjulo, who is charged alongside Germain Katanga on the same grounds, is expected to take the stand tomorrow.

The trial of the two men opened on November 24, 2009.


© Hirondelle News Agency