The world’s first permanent war crimes court opens its second trial today when two Congolese warlords face charges they ordered subordinates to attack civilians, rape women and enlist child soldiers.
Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui are accused by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors of directing a February 2003 attack on a village in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as rival groups fought for control of the region’s gold, diamonds and oil.
Katanga, 31, an ethnic Ngiti, allegedly commanded the Patriotic Resistance Force.
Ngudjolo, 39, a Lendu, is the alleged former leader of the National Integrationist Front.
Both have denied seven counts of war crimes and three charges of crimes against humanity and through defence lawyers have expressed their sympathies for the victims.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Congo conflicts had involved the governments of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.
“The ICC prosecutor should ensure that justice is done in Ituri by focusing on senior officials in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda who armed and supported the Ituri-based militias,” said Param-Preet Singh, counsel with HRW’s international justice programme.
The ICC is currently investigating four cases in the DRC, alongside investigations into violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, Uganda and the Central African Republic.
The court started its first trial in 2008. A Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, is accused of enlisting child soldiers to his Union of Congolese Patriots in the Ituri district to kill rival Lendus.
An arrest warrant was issued in August 2006 against Bosco Ntaganda, an alleged subordinate of Lubanga. He is still at large.
The prosecutor and defence will give opening statements today along with two legal representatives of more than 340 court-recognised victims, 10 of whom are child soldiers.
Prosecutors will call 26 witnesses, 21 of whom are protected witnesses. The trial is expected to take several months.