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Rape and sexual slavery - Appeals Withdrawn in Katanga case

Saturday 5 July 2014, by siawi3

Source: Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, 26 June 2014

Rape and sexual slavery - Appeals Withdrawn in Katanga case

Yesterday, Defence Counsel for Germain Katanga (Katanga) and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) both filed notices withdrawing their appeals of the judgement issued by Trial Chamber II.

On 7 March 2014, Katanga was convicted by a majority of the Trial Chamber as an accessory to the war crimes of directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, and destruction of property, as well as murder as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The Chamber unanimously acquitted Katanga as an accessory to rape and sexual slavery as war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as of the war crime of using child soldiers.

Katanga was convicted as the commander of the Ituri-based Ngiti militia from Walendu-Bindi, which at the time of the alleged crimes was also known as the Force de résistance patriotique en Ituri (FRPI).

Having reviewed the judgement, on 9 April 2014 the Prosecution filed a notice stating its intention to appeal Katanga’s acquittal on the charges of rape and sexual slavery, and the ‘legal, procedural and factual findings that led to those acquittals’, for reasons to be elaborated later in a separate filing.

The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice is therefore extremely concerned and disappointed by the Prosecution’s decision to drop its appeal regarding the acquittal of Katanga for the acts of sexual violence committed by troops under his command in their attack on the village of Bogoro in February 2003.

In many respects, it is easy to comprehend the decision by the Defence to withdraw its appeal of the judgment and to forego an appeal of the sentencing decision. Katanga will be eligible to apply for early release in September 2015 and will likely be out of prison within a much shorter time frame than if he were to be caught-up in a lengthy appeals process.

However, it is unclear why the Prosecution has withdrawn its appeal given it had no obligation to do so in response to the withdrawal of the appeal by Defence Counsel, and bearing in mind the significant impact of this withdrawal on the victims of these crimes in the Katanga case, as well as the serious implications for the ICC, international justice and jurisprudence on crimes of sexual violence.

In our view, yesterday’s statement by Katanga accepting the judgment, along with his expression of regret to victims, does not seem like an obvious or compelling basis for withdrawing the appeal on Katanga’s acquittal of charges for rape and sexual slavery. These concessions, in our view, do not readily explain or justify a decision not to pursue accountability for acts of sexual violence in this case, and not to invest in sound jurisprudence in relation to these crimes.

Having monitored this case since its investigation phase in 2006, the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice raised concerns with the OTP during the investigation and pre-trial stages, regarding its crucial decision to limit the witness pool on sexual violence, and ultimately to proceed to trial with only three primary witnesses for these crimes.

In addition, from the early stages of this case, there were indications that some of the Judges considered the evidence linking the charges of rape and sexual slavery to Katanga to be insufficient. In the confirmation of charges decision, the sexual violence charges were the only crimes confirmed by a majority of judges and not by the full bench. This was an early and important indication that the evidence and legal arguments proving Katanga’s role in the commission of rape and sexual slavery would need to be refined and reinforced at trial.

Unfortunately, based on the judgment it appears that these issues were not fully addressed during the trial, and certainly it is clear that the Prosecution was not ready in this case to address the additional judicial scrutiny uniquely, but predictably, applied to acts of sexual violence.

Based on the Women’s Initiatives review of the judgment, we agree with the OTP’s filing on 9 April 2014 that there appear to be errors of fact and law regarding the adjudication of rape and sexual slavery in this case, suggesting solid grounds for appeal. In light of this, the Prosecution’s decision to withdraw from this process is highly unexpected. The judgment, now uncontested, is a step backwards in the body of jurisprudence on sexual violence, and we are concerned about the possible ramifications for the ICC in its future cases.

Read the full statement by the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice.

Recruitment of the Head of the Independent Oversight Mechanism - Deadline today
The ICC is in the process of recruiting the permanent Head of the Independent Oversight Mechanism (IOM) at a P-5 level. The deadline for applications is today, 26 June 2014. The IOM is a subsidiary body of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute which purpose is to ensure the effective and comprehensive oversight of the Court in order to enhance its efficiency and economy. The IOM shall perform the functions of investigation, inspection and evaluation in accordance with article 112, paragraph 4, of the Rome Statute and shall exercise operational independence under the authority of the President of the Assembly.

Read the job description for the position of Head of the IOM.

Read the 2013 Gender Report Card containing detailed information and recommendations about the IOM.