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The International Criminal Court decides on confirmation of charges against Congolese "warlords"

On Friday 26 September the International Criminal Court issued the decision on the confirmation of charges in the case of “The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui”. The two militia leaders Katanga and Ngudjolo Chui are accused of having led an attack in 2003 on a village in the North East of Congo. According to the prosecutor, more than 200 civilians, including children and women died in this attack which also involved sexual slavery and systematical rape of women (see the prosecutor’s fact sheet on the case).

In June 2008 a preliminary hearing of evidence was held before the judges of the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber I. The Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed the charge with respect to seven war crimes, including the use of child soldiers, willful killing and pillage as well as with respect to three crimes against humanity, i.e. murder, rape and sexual slavery. The Chamber declined, however, to continue the proceedings on certain other allegations, including torture and inhuman treatment due to a lack of evidence.

Katanga and Ngudjolo were surrendered to the ICC on 17 October 2007 and 7 February 2008 respectively, thereby being the second and the third accused transferred into the custody of the Court. The first trial against Thomas Lubanga, another Congolese militia leader, was stayed over concerns that the defense was denied full access to evidence which the UN had provided to the Court (we reported on this case earlier).

Also in the present case, the defense has asked the Court to suspend the proceedings since the prosecutor is apparently basing himself on the same evidence as in the Lubanga case. Yet the Court has not dealt with these objections as the proceedings are still at a preliminary stage (see the following press article).

By confirming the charges in part, the Pre-Trial Chamber cleaned the way for the trial i.e., for the main part of the proceedings before the Court. In the next weeks a another chamber will set a date for the start of the trial which is, according to ICC officials, however, not to be expected to take place before the end of the year.

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