The International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Congolese rebel leader Germain Katanga of crimes against humanity and war crimes today, but acquitted him of rape and sexual slavery charges.
The ICC established Katanga’s involvement as an accessory to murder, destroying property and pillaging in a 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The court said it found evidence of rape and sexual violence in the aftermath of the attack—three women testified to being raped and held captive in military camps—but did not have enough evidence to connect Katanga to the crimes.
Many anti-violence activists hoped the Katanga verdict would be the first ICC conviction of rape and gender violence. There has been evidence of these crimes in other cases. However, Katanga’s was the first ICC trial to include charges of rape and gender violence as war crimes and crimes against humanity. Katanga was originally on trial with another rebel leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, who was later acquitted of all charges.
In statement on the Katanga verdict, Brigid Inder, the executive director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) said, “Mr Katanga’s acquittal on charges of rape and sexual slavery is a devastating result for the victims/survivors of the Bogoro attack, as well as other victims of these crimes committed by the FRPI within the ethnically-driven conflict in Ituri.”
Our Women of Congo Speak Out delegation visited survivors and anti-violence activists in eastern Congo in February. Rape and gender violence continue to plague the region, despite the regional agreement that ended the M23 rebellion in 2013.