POST WRITTEN BY: Prof. Peter Widulski, Assistant Director of the First Year Legal Skills Program and the Coach of International Criminal Moot Court Team at Pace Law School
On March 7, 2014, a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rendered a guilty verdict against Germain Katanga, relating to an investigation commenced in June 2004 by the ICC Prosecutor into the Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is the second conviction achieved by an ICC Prosecutor since the entry into force of the ICC’s Rome Statute on July 1, 2002.
The ICC’s first conviction was rendered in 2012 against Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. The Lubanga Case also arose out of the Prosecutors’ investigation of the DRC situation. Lubanga, the leader of an armed group opposed to the DRC government, was convicted pursuant to Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the war crime of conscripting children into his military forces.
Germain Katanga, who also led an armed force opposed to the DRC, was also convicted of Article 8 war crimes. Notably, however, he was also found guilty on one count of a crime against humanity, pursuant to Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute. This represents the first conviction the ICC Prosecutor has obtained on a charge of crimes against humanity.
Pursuing a charge of crimes against humanity requires the ICC Prosecutor, under Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute, to prove that the underlying criminal acts were committed “as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population ….”
During the 1990s prior to the entry into force of the Rome Statute, the United Nations Security Council, pursuant to its authority under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, enacted the Statutes of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Tribunal for Rwanda. These statutes contain similar requirements for prosecution of crimes against humanity.
In accordance with these statutory requirements, the ICTY and the ICTR have obtained convictions against many defendants on charges of crimes against humanity. While these cases are not binding on ICC Court, when in September 2008 the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed the crimes against humanity charge against Katanga, it explicitly referenced and found guidance from the ICTY and ICTR cases regarding their interpretation of the elements required to sustain a crimes against humanity charge.
The Trial Chamber found Katanga not guilty of some of the war crimes charged and one of the crimes against humanity charged. Both the Defense and the Prosecutor have 30 days within which to appeal the judgment. The Trial Chamber will soon conduct proceedings with respect to the sentence and reparations for the victims.