DRC war crimes verdict due

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iol news pic DRC Katanga Reuters Germain Katanga, a Congolese national, sits in the courtroom of the ICC during the closing statements in the trial against him and Ngudjolo Chui in The Hague. Picture: Michael Kooren

The Hague - The International Criminal Court Tuesday postponed its verdict on the war crimes trial of former Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga to March 7.

The verdict, only the third in the court's history, was originally set for Friday, but was delayed because “one of the judges is currently unavailable for health reasons,” the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.

Katanga, 35, went on trial four years ago facing seven counts of war crimes and three of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, stemming from conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo's volatile east.

His Forces for the Patriotic Resistance in Ituri (FRPI), from the Lendu and Ngiti ethnic groups, are suspected of having taken part in massacres of another ethnic group, the Hema.

Among other allegations, Katanga Ä also known as Simba (Lion) Ä is accused of involvement in an attack on the village of Bogoro in which about 200 civilians were murdered.

Prosecutors allege women and girls were taken as sex slaves and child fighters forcibly enlisted from the looted village, which was razed to the ground after the attack.

Kinshasa arrested Katanga in 2005. The ICC issued an arrest warrant two years later and he was transferred to the court in October 2007.

He remains behind bars at the ICC's detention unit in The Hague.

Katanga's co-accused, former militia boss Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, was acquitted in December 2012 after judges said prosecutors had failed to prove that Chui played a commanding role in the Bogoro attack.

It was the first time the ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, had acquitted a suspect.

The court has only convicted one other suspect, Katanga's arch-foe and former Congolese rebel fighter Thomas Lubanga, who was found guilty last year of recruiting and enlisting child soldiers.

In 2003, DR Congo was just starting to emerge from a war that embroiled the armies of a half-dozen nations, and the country's isolated east was rife with violent militia groups.

Clashes in Ituri broke out in 1999 and devastated the region, said the indictment. They killed about 60 000, according to non-governmental group tallies.

Sapa-AFP


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