ICC allows trial of accused Congo militia leader to continue

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Monday denied the stay of proceedings request [press release] of accused Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga [case materials]. Katanga filed the appeal in June seeking a stay of proceedings and a declaration of unlawful detention by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder] before his transfer to the ICC. In upholding the November decision of Trial Chamber II, the Appeals Chamber held that the motion had been filed too late. Two dissenting appellate judges described the standard applied by the trial chamber as a retroactive one and a violation of the chamber's discretion. According to the dissent, the trial chamber had not properly weighed the procedural interests of the court against the Katanga's rights. Katanga and his co-defendant Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial in November [JURIST report] to charges of three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes, including murder, sexual slavery, pillage, and the use of child soldiers. Katanga, a former commander in the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri [IRIN backgrounder], and Ngudjolo Chui, a former commander in the Nationalist and Integrationist Front, allegedly led two groups of child soldiers and militia in the attack against the village of Bogoro. Bogoro is located in the DRC's mineral-rich Ituri province, which has caused the territory to be an ongoing point of contention between Congolese militias. The trial is only the ICC's second case since its formation since 2002.

In September, the Appeals Chamber upheld the admissibility [JURIST report] of the case against Katanga after he argued that charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against him should be dropped because he was being tried for the same crimes in the DRC, violating the ICC principle of complementarity. The Appeals Chamber upheld the trial chamber's June 2009 dismissal of Katanga's challenge on the grounds that the there were no domestic proceedings against him at the time the charges were filed, and that subsequent investigations did not result in domestic charges. Noting that the aim of the Rome Statute [text, PDF] establishing the ICC is to ensure that "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished." In September 2008, the trial chamber confirmed [JURIST report] the charges against Katanga. He surrendered to the ICC and was transferred to the detention facility in the Hague in October 2007 after a warrant [text, PDF, in French] was issued for his arrest in July 2007. Former rebel leaders Thomas Lubanga Dyilo and Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo [JURIST news archives] are also on trial at the ICC for their alleged involvement in crimes committed in the DRC and neighboring Central African Republic [BBC backgrounder]. Lubanga's trial was suspended [JURIST report] by the ICC on Thursday, however. Another alleged rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda [case materials], remains at large.

 

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