Katanga Witnesses Testify, then Seek Asylum

Three witnesses who testified for the defense in the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against Germain Katanga and Matthieu Ngdolo Chui sought asylum in The Netherlands after their testimony.

According to the Katanga trial website,  the witnesses testified that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was responsible for the Bogoro attack, one of the allegations against the accused.  The case raises difficult questions for the ICC and its obligations to protect witnesses.   The three claim that by testifying against the government of the DRC they have put themselves at risk, and cannot safely return to the DRC.  They have asked the court to keep them in The Netherlands until Dutch authorities rule on the asylum requests.

The court has an obligation to protect witnesses, but cannot provide asylum.  Returning the witnesses to the DRC if they would be harmed would clearly not be in keeping with the court’s obligation to protect witnesses, but there is a limit to how long the court could hold them in custody, and it has no place to put them that is not custody.

The registry and its Victim and Witnesses Unit is trying to determine whether the safety of the witnesses can be adequately guaranteed with a return to the DRC.  The witnesses were in DRC custody when brought to The Hague.  The question to be resolved is whether or not returning them to DRC custody puts them at greater risk.

The case against Katanga and Chui is the second ICC case to go to trial.  Katanga and Chui are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Katanga is alleged to have been the commander of the Patriotic Resistance Force of Ituri, (FRPI) and Chui is alleged to have been the leader of the Nationalist Front of Integrationists (FNI) both fighting against the government of the DRC.

The indictment alleges that Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui allegedly jointly committed through other persons, within the meaning of article 25(3)(a) of the Statute:

War crimes:

  1. using children under the age of fifteen to take active part in the hostilities, under article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) of the Statute;
  2. directing an attack against a civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities under article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Statute;
  3. wilful killings under article 8(2)(a)(i) of the Statute;
  4. destruction of property under article 8(2)(b)(xiii) of the Statute;
  5. pillaging under article 8(2)(b)(xvi) of the Statute;
  6. sexual slavery under article 8(2)(b)(xxii) of the Statute.
  7. rape under article 8(2)(b)(xxii) of the Statute

Crimes against Humanity:

  1. murder under article 7(1)(a) of the Statute;
  2. rape under article 7(1)(g) of the Statute.
  3. sexual slavery under article 7(1)(g) of the Statute.

The trial began in November, 2009. The defense began presenting its case in April of 2011.


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