Congo warlord found guilty of aiding war crimes

Conviction of Germain Katanga is only second in International Criminal Court's 11-year history

Germain Katanga, a Congolese national, sits in the courtroom of the ICC during the closing statements in the trial against Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo in The Hague, Netherlands.
AP Photo/Michael Kooren, Pool

Congolese warlord Germain Katanga has been convicted of being an accessory to crimes including murder and pillage during an attack on a village in a diamond-rich region of Congo in 2003 — marking the second conviction in the International Criminal Court's 11-year history.

Reading the verdict on Friday, presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said that without Katanga's help in procuring firearms, the attack — which left about 200 civilians dead — would not have been as bloody.

"Absent that supply of weapons ... commanders would not have been able to carry out the attack with such efficiency," Cotte said at the conclusion of the five-year trial, the Reuters news agency reported. 

The court acquitted Katanga of charges of direct involvement in the attack. Katanga was also found not guilty of using child soldiers and acquitted of charges related to rape and sexual slavery. 

During the trial, conflicting testimonies were heard as to whether he was the head of armed group the Patriotic Resistance Force.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Rob Williams, CEO of non-governmental organization War Child, said the verdict would not satisfy some of the victims because they had received witness statements detailing severe sexual violence carried out by the Patriotic Resistance Force.

"One girl in Bogoro said she was dragged out of her home at night, abducted and kept as a slave by rebels, who raped her repeatedly," said Williams. 

However, one of the three judges slammed Friday's verdict, saying that the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga during the trial, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.

Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing.

Al Jazeera and wire services.

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