DR Congo: War crimes hearing for ICC convict

from Human Rights Watch
Published on 03 Feb 2016

Germain Katanga Given Little Time to Outline Defense, List Witnesses

(Kinshasa, February 3, 2016) – A Democratic Republic of Congo military court on January 25, 2016, ordered an International Criminal Court (ICC) convict, Germain Katanga, to present his defense and list of witnesses at a hearing on February 3. The proceedings concern new charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity filed against Katanga by the general military prosecutor in Congo’s High Military Court in Kinshasa, the capital, on December 30, 2015.

At the hearing, initially scheduled for January 29, Katanga will be requested to provide the broad outline of his defense and set out the evidence, legal arguments, and witnesses he intends to present during the trial. The short notice he was given to present this information is grossly inadequate for alleged crimes of this gravity and is contrary to the right to have the time and facilities to prepare one’s defense, as recognized under international human rights law and Congolese law, Human Rights Watch said.

On January 21, the presidency of the ICC asked Congolese authorities to provide it with additional information so that the court can decide whether to authorize new proceedings against Katanga before the Congolese justice system. Under article 108 of the ICC Statute, a country in which an ICC convict is serving an ICC sentence must seek authorization from the ICC before initiating new criminal proceedings against the person.

“Demanding that Germain Katanga get ready in just a few days with his defense and witness list for grave crimes allegedly committed over 10 years ago in northeastern Congo, far away from the Kinshasa courthouse, undercuts his right to prepare a defense,” said Géraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “In addition to respecting Katanga’s rights to a fair trial, Congolese judicial authorities need to give the ICC the information it requested so it can decide whether to authorize the new criminal proceedings.”

Katanga had been serving the remainder of his 12-year ICC sentence in Kinshasa central prison on an ICC conviction handed down in March 2014, for complicity in war crimes in the village of Bogoro, Ituri district. The ICC case only dealt with the Bogoro massacre. His ICC sentence, which had been reduced in November 2015, ended on January 18, 2016, but Katanga has remained in detention because of the new national charges.

The document notifying him of the charges, issued by the military prosecutor on December 30, 2015, does not include details of the specific crimes Katanga is accused of, nor information on the dates and places where the alleged crimes were committed. Congo’s judicial system does not provide legal aid for indigent accused.

This is the first case in which new national proceedings are being brought against an individual already convicted by the ICC. It raises important questions about the ICC prosecutorial strategy and the interaction between the ICC and national courts – known as complementarity. The case is also a test for the Congolese judicial system and its ability to try grave international crimes independently, effectively, and fairly, Human Rights Watch said.

For background information about Germain Katanga’s case, please visit: 

To read the ICC presidency’s decision ordering the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide more information, please read:

To read the document containing the charges issued by the Congolese military prosecutor, please visit:

Human Rights Watch:

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