By Rahul Gupta
The International Criminal Court, on the 24th of March 2017, awarded “symbolic” reparations to around 300 people in the North-east Democratic Republic of Congo. The damages have been awarded to victims of crimes perpetrated by one Germain Katanga, during a 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro in the Ituri province of the DRC.
To provide for reparations
The court, after examination of each claim, awarded 250 USD per victim as individual reparations. The court also directed the paying of collective reparations in the form of support for housing, support for income generating activities, educational aid and psychological support. The court determined the total damage to be around 3.7 million USD and directed Katanga to pay 1 million USD, with regard to the principle of proportionality. However, Katanga does not posses the adequate means to pay the amount. Hence, in the order, the court invited the Trust Fund For Victims to provide the amount.
Katanga’s criminal background
Germain Katanga was convicted in 2014 as an accessory to murder, which is seen as a crime against humanity, and on four counts of war crimes including the attack of a civilian population, pillaging and destruction of property. Katanga was a leader of a rebel group operating in the Ituri province of the DRC. In 2003, Katanga’s millita along with other rebel groups attacked the village of Bogoro. Ostensibly, the attack was meant to secure control of the village as it was located on a strategic highway. However the attack also appeared to be a “reprisal operation against the Hema- civilian population”. The attackers went on an indiscriminate killing spree that resulted in the death of 200 people in the village.
Katanga was not found guilty as the principal perpetrator for the attack but was held liable as an accessory. The court found that Katanga was the intermediary of choice for the suppliers of arms and ammunitions and the individuals who physically committed the act. He was also found to have contributed by providing access to the only airport in the area, thereby giving the militia a distinct advantage over the other combatants. The court did not affix primary liability, as there was insufficient evidence to suggest that Katanga had control over the militia. There was also no evidence that his orders were complied with nor did he have any effective way to punish errant commanders. In absence of this evidence, the clear link between Katanga and the physical attacks in the village was never exposed. The court sentenced him to 12 years in jail.
Accusations piling up
The court acquitted Katanga of sexual slavery, rape and the use of children as combatants, all of which are crimes under the Rome statute. The acquittal, on this count, drew criticism from women’s groups across the world. The court directed the Trust Fund For Victims to propose the specific implementation by end June and has asked the TFV to reduce harms accruing from violence and in particular sexual violence. Mr Katanga was given the option to tender an apology through the TFV as well.
Claims of racism
African nations or leaders of African nations often claim that the ICC operates with a pro-western agenda and hence unfairly targets only African countries. This belief has led for repeated calls to African countries to leave the Rome statute. Experts often dismiss these claims. Most of the African investigations, save one in Kenya, have been instituted after domestic requests for the same. The ICC walks a fine line. Too much leniency, and the court is seen as a lame-duck which is afraid to do justice. Too much aggression, the court is seen as acting politically and in an unfair manner. The institution of the International Criminal Court is significant in our history. The recognition that even during war, certain rights within people remain unalienable and the transgression of these rights is criminal is paramount to ensure civilian safety in the coming years and decades. The ICC decisions recognize and nurture these rights, making them harder to transgress or transgress and escape with. The reparations even if useless to the people effected, will serve to codify their rights in books and in law. That is the ultimate victory of this order.
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