KINSHASA, 18 October 2007 (IRIN) - A former rebel commander accused of committing atrocities in the Ituri district of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been flown to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague as part of continuing efforts by the tribunal to tackle the culture of impunity in the volatile country.
Photo: ICC-CPI / Wim van Cappellen - Reporters
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, has the DRC in his sights
Germain Katanga, 29, also known as "Simba", was put on a plane chartered by the ICC and transferred from Kinshasa, the capital, to the ICC's detention centre in The Hague on 18 October to face war crimes charges.
Katanga, a former senior commander of the Force de Résistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI), had been in the custody of Congolese authorities.
"Today we are prosecuting Germain Katanga, leader of a militia group, who we allege is personally responsible for the brutal crimes his forces committed. His name will forever be associated with the name of Bogoro, an ordinary village, which he ordered fighters under his command to 'wipe out'. Hundreds were slaughtered. Women were forced into sexual slavery," according to a statement by Fatou Bensouda, deputy prosecutor in charge of the case.
The crimes were committed between January 2002 and December 2003 when more than 8,000 civilians died and half a million people were displaced from their homes in Ituri.
Katanga becomes the second rebel leader from Ituri to be transferred to the ICC.
The Court in January 2007 indicted Thomas Lubanga for war crimes, specifically the conscription of children into his militia. Lubanga, 46, was arrested on 17 March 2006 in Ituri, becoming the first suspect to be taken into ICC custody, two years after the tribunal's prosecutor launched investigations into his activities in the Ituri conflict.
"When Thomas Lubanga Dyilo was surrendered to the Court, we said, 'This is our first case in the DRC, not the last. Today a second person from the DRC is in custody, and he will not be the last one to face justice in the ICC. We are selecting a third case," said ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
"The DRC is still engulfed in violence. There is forced displacement of people, sexual violence of shocking brutality, and killings. It must stop. Perpetrators must know they will be prosecuted. The ICC is at work in the DRC," Moreno-Ocampo added.
At least 60,000 civilians were killed in attacks and revenge-attacks in Ituri between rival ethnic groups in 1999-2003, according to the UN.
Ituri special report (November 2002)