International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ICC Finds Congolese Warlord Guilty of Minor Charges, Cleared of Major Ones

The ICC finally handed down its second verdict, finding former Congolese Warlord Germain Katanga guilty of being an accessory to crimes against humanity, including being an accessory to murder and pillage. A large part of the conviction had to do with his supply of arms and munition to commanders who allegedly led the massacres in the Congo in 2003 that led to hundreds of civilian deaths. However, the ICC judges were not able to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Katanga himself was responsible for orchestrating and leading the massacres, hence the  conviction of “accessory” rather than “perpetrator” of crimes against humanity.

What’s good about this?

It’s nice to finally get another conviction from the ICC, particularly in this case. Katanga’s counterpart, initially tried as a co-perpetrator but then split off into his own case, Mathieu Nngudjolo Chui, was acquitted in December of 2012. Sentencing has yet to occur, but several groups have already touted the conviction as  providing a measure of justice to the victims of the violence that has wracked the Democratic Republic of Congo for over a decade.

What are the problems?

1. The severity of the verdict.  In addition to only being found guilty of being an “accessory”, Katanga was acquitted of several more serious crimes, including use of child soldiers, rape, and sexual slavery. The lack of a conviction on the front of the sexual violence accusations is particularly disappointing, given the prevalence of sexual violence and rape in these types of crimes. Many were hoping that a firm ICC conviction on sexual violence could be an important step in addressing its role in mass violence.

2. The changed charges. Katanga was initially charged as a “co-perpetrator”, which was changed to “accessory” only recently. The defense and several critics of the verdict claim that the defense did not have time to adequately prepare for the changed charges, which affected their ability to defend Katanga in court. The defense is planning on appealing Katanga’s case on these claims.

3. The quality of ICC investigations. Many critics of the verdict claim that the prosecution was not able to build a strong case against Katanga because their investigation was not thorough enough.  Phil Clark, an expert on the ICC from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, says that “the ICC has been doing its investigations on the cheap. It’s been using a really small group of investigators who haven’t spent an enormous amount of time in Congo. The prosecution has cut corners, they’ve used local Congolese intermediaries to do a lot of their dirty work. And as a result of that these cases haven’t been systematically built.”

This is, of course, a problem that speaks to the fact that the ICC both lacks funding, and depends entirely on cooperation from the states that it is conducting investigations in. It is difficult to see how stronger investigations can be built without substantial increases in funding.

Looking forward

While this verdict is an important advancement in the world of international justice, there is still much work to be done. This is only the second verdict in 11 years, and this trial alone has been ongoing for six years. The violence in the Congo continues to rage despite the ICC’s efforts in the region. Human Rights Watch has called upon the prosecutor to publicly commit to more investigation in the region, in hopes that it might eventually have a real impact.



One response to “ICC Finds Congolese Warlord Guilty of Minor Charges, Cleared of Major Ones

  1. angelalg March 10, 2014 at 12:12 am

    While reading up on this verdict in the news, I stumbled upon the United Nations press release following the ICC’s decisions. The full article is linked below. The title caught my eye because of the way it sets up the relationship between the UN and ICC: “UN welcomes International Criminal Court conviction of former DR Congo militia leader.”

    The article itself includes several quotes from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo who issued a statement that day. The SG praised the court’s verdict and the processes of justice. The article, however, reminded me of some questions I had at the beginning of the quarter regarding the ICC-UN relationship. I thought it was worth investigating so here are some ideas:

    First, the formalized relationship, generally speaking, contains two key aspects: (1) The ICC is intimately connected to the UN’s Security Council which can refer and defer cases. (2) A less known provision within Article 18 is that the UN can provide information and evidence to the prosecution on a confidential basis.

    Things are slightly more messy in the informal world — Not all members of the UN are party to the ICC and therefore, press releases such as one stating that the “UN Welcomes ICC Conviction” seem odd from my perspective. That being said, the supportive relationship makes sense given several of the parallel goals espoused by the two international bodies (in addition to their legal linkage). Even so, the marketing seems like it could create some controversial issues that might be worth discussing. I looked for articles on this topic but found few (many, however, reiterated problems we discussed earlier in the class regarding the ICC’s independence and the lack of support the ICC received in terms of resources from other international governing bodies). I just wanted to put this discussion out there in case anyone had any thoughts.

    UN Welcomes ICC Conviction:

    Washington College of Law Report on ICC-UN Relationship:

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