On 7 March 2014, Germain Katanga, a warlord from the DRC, was convicted as an accomplice for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the third Judgment issued by the International Criminal Court. The Judgment was rendered on a number of issues only by majority, with a dissenting opinion by Judge van den Wyngaert and a concurring opinion by the other two judges.
One of the main reasons why this judgment was expected is that it is the final chapter (pending appeal) of a somewhat controversial process. Indeed, Katanga was initially tried as a co-perpetrator with Chui. However, in November 2012, a month before the judgment, during deliberations, a majority of the trial chamber 1) severed the cases 2) announced that the judgment for Chui would take place as planned (he was acquitted) and 3) informed the defense that there might be a legal recharacterization of the charges. This effectively prolonged the trial of Katanga by more than a year, ending with his conviction under the new legal characterization, whereas he would have been acquitted along with Chui had it not happened.
This is obviously the biggest difficulty with this judgment, but it features other considerations which merit some attention. I offered my first impressions of the judgment after the summary was read out in open court. In the next few days, I will suggest some more detailed considerations, based on plowing through the actual judgment and dissent. A few caveats. First, readers should note that the judgment itself is in French, so I do no reproduce the relevant parts that I discuss, nor did I have time to translate. I try, as much as possible, to indicate paragraph or page numbers so that you can check for yourselves. Second, what follows is obviously a mere selection of issues discussed in the judgment and there is no claim to exhaustivity.
So, let’s start. In this first post, I want to discuss the issue of the quality of the Prosecutor’s investigation, the rules of interpretation and the definition of the crimes. Continue reading