War crimes court orders former Congo militia leader to pay victims

THE HAGUE (REUTERS) - The International Criminal Court on Friday (March 24) found Congolese former militia leader Germain Katanga liable for US$1 million (S$1.4 million) in damages to his victims, in a landmark ruling for the permanent war crimes tribunal.

Judges specified that Katanga, convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2014, should pay US$250 to each of 297 victims individually, or US$74,250 in all - the first time the court has ordered a convict to pay damages to individual victims.

Noting that Katanga is in prison, indigent and unlikely to pay, judges acknowledged that the ruling is partly "symbolic" and asked the court's Trust Fund for Victims to consider paying the damages on his behalf.

The award was "not intended to compensate for the entirety of the harm," presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut said.

But he said he hoped the fund, which is independent, would provide some kind of "meaningful relief to the victims for the harm they have suffered".

Katanga was convicted for crimes including murder, attacking a civilian population and pillaging for his role in a 2003 attack on the Bogoro village in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but remains in jail in DRC on other charges.

The attack on Bogoro was part of an ethnic conflict which pitted ethnic Hema and Lendu communities against each other.

Judges ruled that damages suffered by all victims of the attack amounted to US$3.7 million and Katanga was responsible for US$1 million of that.

The court asked the fund to consider funding a programme to support victims with housing, education, work, and psychological support.

The Trust Fund for Victims is funded by donations from states and individuals. It said in its 2016 report it has earmarked 5 million euros (S$7.5 million) to contribute to victims' reparations in various ICC cases.

The court asked it to respond by June 27 with details of how it might support Katanga's victims.