THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court on Friday convicted a rebel leader of charges including murder and pillage over a deadly attack on a village in eastern Congo, but acquitted him of rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Germain Katanga showed no emotion as judges convicted him as an accessory in the attack on the strategic village of Bogoro on Feb. 24, 2003, in which some 200 civilians were hacked or shot to death and many women were raped and turned into sex slaves.
Katanga, nicknamed Simba, is only the second person convicted since the court was established in 2002. Another alleged rebel leader originally charged with him, Mathieu Ngudjolo, was acquitted of all charges in December 2012.
In a 2-1 majority verdict, the court said Katanga played an important role in the attack on Bogoro by arming rebel fighters, "reinforcing the strike capability of the militia," Presiding Judge Bruno Cotte said.
One of the three judges slammed the verdict, however, saying that the court changed the nature of the charges against Katanga, depriving him of the ability to defend himself.
Katanga originally was charged as an "indirect co-perpetrator" in the crimes, but judges said Friday they had changed the nature of his involvement to cast him as an "accessory," effectively watering down his involvement in the attack.
Defense lawyers were told of the possible switch months ago, but Belgian Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert said in a written dissenting opinion that changing the charges "has rendered this trial unfair by infringing a series of Germain Katanga's rights."
Katanga will be sentenced after a separate hearing. He is likely to appeal the convictions.
His lawyer, David Hooper, said Katanga was disappointed, but the Belgian judge's comments gave him grounds to hope "that in the future the appeal chamber will put this decision right."
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(Photo: MICHAEL KOOREN/AFP/GettyImages)