ICC Prosecutor leaves unfinished business in Ituri, DRC
With the third DRC war crimes suspect now at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the ICC Prosecutor has signaled that his work in Ituri is done. According to the Prosecutor, the arrest of Mathieu Ngudjolo now closes the first phase of investigations in the DRC. He is now turning his attention to the ongoing atrocities in the Kivus, just south of Ituri.
REDRESS is concerned that the Prosecutor is moving on to other parts of the country without fully investigating a significant portion of the crimes in Ituri. “There is unfinished business in Ituri, which is causing tension on the ground.” said Mariana Goetz, REDRESS’ ICC Programme Adviser.
“Things have not been resolved. Only three days ago some fighting re-erupted in Ituri. The Lendu community, from which Mathieu Ngudjolo and Germain Katanga are from, feel resentful and angry. Because they are associated with Rwanda’s Hutu, they are always targeted. However the Hema, affiliated to the Tutsi get away lightly,” says Eloi Uwodhi of LIPADHO, Ligue Pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme.
There is resentment that Thomas Lubanga and the UPC militia that he led are getting away too lightly. Arrested by the ICC in March 2006, Lubanga is said to be responsible for widespread killings and countless incidents of sexual violence. Yet, Lubanga has only been charged with recruiting and using child soldiers.
Now both Ngudjolo (arrested last week) and Germain Katanga (arrested October 2007), from the opposing FNI and FHRI groups are charged with a list of offences, including murder, sexual slavery, inhuman or cruel treatment, attacks against civilians, and pillaging.
According to the Prosecutor’s investigation strategy, cases will reflect “the gravest incidents and the main types of victimisation”. However, the charges against Lubanga are so narrow in comparison to the others accused that there is a perception of imbalance on the ground. REDRESS and other civil society groups have called on the Prosecutor to expand its investigation into crimes committed by Lubanga and his UPC militia. The news that the Prosecutor is closing the Ituri chapter appears inconsistent with his strategy and poses a risk to victims on the ground.
REDRESS calls upon the Prosecutor to continue his investigations in Ituri, ensuring coverage of a representative range of crimes, including killings, sexual violence and torture. REDRESS is encouraged by the Prosecutor’s intention to investigate crimes in other parts of DRC, but believes this should not be at the expense of the Ituri investigation.
REDRESS is an international human rights organisation helping torture survivors obtain justice. REDRESS works to ensure that the rights of survivors are at the forefront of the ICC’s work.
On Monday 11 February 2008, Mathieu Ngudjolo, was the third accused to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Mathieu Ngudjolo was the highest ranking commander of the FNI militia group that operated in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Eastern province of Ituri.
It is probable that he will be tried jointly with Germain Katanga of the associated FHRI group who was transferred to The Hague in October. Both are accused of atrocities committed in the village of Bogoro around 24 February 2003 including the killing of over 300 people and forcing girls and women into sexual slavery.