Germain Katanga, a warlord convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for murder and other crimes, thought he was getting released from prison in January. But he was wrong. He had been found guilty by the ICC on charges linked to a 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro, in the eastern province of Ituri of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – and had served the end of his 12-year sentence in a Kinshasa jail, at his own request.
According to the writer there is " a backlog of cases of international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide) in the DRC courts." And in an unsual step.
DRC authorities, instead of freeing [Katanga], held him for trial on other charges that had not been dealt with by the ICC. This development represents not only yet another legal novelty for the ICC but also a potentially significant gearshift by the DRC justice system.
The writer notes that "The judicial process in the DRC against Katanga, the former head of the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front, required a fairly intricate legal dance between the ICC, the DRC and Katanga’s defense team."
The presiding judge of the DRC High Military Court, General Major Bivegete, told the International Center for Transitional Justice that the decision to prosecute Katanga highlighted “the importance of re-focusing on the primacy of the national jurisdiction to prosecute international crimes rather than on the complementarity of the ICC. The focus should not be on the ICC’s role in handling these crimes, but on the DRC’s responsibility to prosecute them.”
The writer concludes, "It is by building up a bank of credible cases that both national and international courts dealing with atrocious crimes will help to change attitudes of what is and is not acceptable conduct. The DRC prosecution of Katanga is an enormously welcome step on that journey of persuasion.
Is this correct, and is this correct for all of the other national jurisdictions challenged by allegations of war crimes and inhuman conduct during military operations?