The International Criminal Court has convicted a rebel leader of charges including murder and pillage over a deadly attack on a village in eastern Congo, but acquitted him of rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Germain Katanga showed no emotion as judges convicted him as an accessory in the attack on the strategic village of Bogoro on 24 February 2003, in which about 200 people were hacked or shot to death and many women were raped and used as sex slaves.
Katanga, nicknamed Simba, is only the second person convicted since the court was established in 2002. Another alleged rebel leader originally charged alongside him, Mathieu Ngudjolo, was acquitted of all charges in December 2012.
In a 2-1 majority verdict, the court said Katanga played an important role in the attack on Bogoro by arming rebel fighters, “reinforcing the strike capability of the militia”, the presiding judge, Bruno Cotte, said.
One of the three judges criticised the verdict, however, saying the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.
Katanga was originally charged as an “indirect co-perpetrator” in the crimes, but judges said on Friday they had changed the nature of his involvement to cast him as an accessory, watering down his involvement in the attack.
Defence lawyers were told of the possible switch months ago, but the Belgian judge Christine van den Wyngaert said in a written dissenting opinion that changing the charges “has rendered this trial unfair by infringing a series of Germain Katanga’s rights”.
Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing. He is likely to appeal against the convictions.