Who is responsible for the crimes committed in Bogoro?

Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)International justiceNews

Brussels/The Hague, 11 March 2014 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) welcomes the decision made by the International Criminal Court on 7 March to find Germain Katanga guilty of complicity in crimes against humanity. Katanga, a Congolese warlord, is the first defendant standing trial at the ICC to be found guilty in relation to such crimes which were perpetrated in the village of Bogoro (eastern DRC). ASF regrets, however, that the trial was not able to establish the whole truth surrounding who was really behind these crimes.

The charges against Katanga, the alleged commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri (FRPI), relate to the deadly attack in February 2003 on the civilian population of Bogoro, a village in the region of Ituri in eastern DRC. During the attack which was launched in the early hours, the assailants set about hunting down the population of the village and committing other crimes. Wielding firearms and machetes, they killed at least 60 people. The Court’s ruling recognised that the civilian population was specifically targeted in the attack, and that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed – murder, rape, looting and the destruction of property. By supplying weapons and ammunition and reinforcing the capabilities of the FRPI militia, Katanga was found guilty of being an accessory to these crimes. However, the Court was not able to establish that he gave the order for the crimes to be committed, or that he was directly involved.

“This decision is a step forward in the fight against impunity. The Court acknowledges that no minimum number of victims is required in order to declare that a crime in which an ethnic group is targeted is a crime against humanity”, says Jean-Philippe Kot, ASF international justice expert. “The ICC has for the first time condemned the act of supplying the means necessary to commit an attack, such as the weapons used.”

Nevertheless, some victims may not comprehend the ruling. “The Court has established that child soldiers were used and that sexual crimes were also committed, yet it was not able to confirm the direct responsibility of the accused. This means, in concrete terms, that none of the victims will be able to obtain any compensation”, states Mr Kot.

Furthermore, the question of who bears chief responsibility remains open. Who did give the orders to commit the crimes seen at Bogoro, if not the accused? “To be able to rebuild their lives, the victims must be able to comprehend why the attack happened and know who the main actors behind the crimes were”, Mr Kot emphasises.

ASF is calling on the Court to work together with victims’ lawyers to ensure that those communities affected understand the judgment, and to prevent any feelings of injustice. ASF also recommends that the victims are involved in the compensation procedure.

ASF has worked alongside Congolese associations from the beginning of the preliminary investigation to identify victims, explain to them why their involvement in the trial matters, and facilitate their participation. In total, 366 victims have taken part in the trial.

Cover picture: Germain Katanga © ICC