THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court sentenced a Congolese warlord to 12 years in prison on Friday, after convicting him in March of aiding and abetting crimes including murder and pillage in a notorious 2003 attack on a village in which some 200 people were shot or hacked to death.
Germain Katanga, nicknamed Simba, showed no emotion as Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte read out the sentence.
Katanga is only the second person sentenced by the court. He could be free soon as he already has been in detention at the court for almost seven years.
He was convicted for his role on the Feb. 24, 2003, attack on the strategic village of Bogoro in eastern Congo’s conflict-hit Ituri province.
Cotte said Katanga, who was 24 at the time, made a “significant contribution” to the crimes. But he also gave Katanga credit for helping demobilize child soldiers in Ituri.
“The sentence of Germain Katanga to 12 years imprisonment by the ICC gives hope to victims and sends a strong signal to all perpetrators of serious crimes who now know that they will be actively pursued and prosecuted,” said Joseph Dunia Ruyenzi, a Congolese activist for the Coalition for the ICC, a group that promotes the court’s work.
Katanga was convicted in a 2-1 majority verdict of playing an important role in the attack on Bogoro by arming rebel fighters, “reinforcing the strike capability of the militia.”
The conviction was controversial, with one of the three judges saying the court’s decision to change the nature of charges against Katanga during his prosecution hampered his ability to defend himself.
Katanga originally was charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” in the crimes, but judges changed the nature of his involvement to cast him as an “accessory,” effectively downgrading his involvement in the attack.