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Congolese warlord jailed for brutal machete attack

Congolese warlords Germain Katanga sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Michael
Congolese warlords Germain Katanga sits in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Michael

By Thomas Escritt

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Congolese warlord Germain Katanga was given a 12 year sentence on Friday by the International Criminal Court for his part in an ethnically motivated attack more than a decade ago in which the victims were "carved" limb from limb.

The attack took place when the ethnic Hema inhabitants of Bogoro village in northeastern Congo were still asleep. Some 200 were killed after Katanga's Ngiti fighters converged on the village from all sides, leaving victims with no escape.

"The attackers literally carved their victims up limb from limb," Judge Bruno Cotte said. "The attackers slashed them with machetes and knives as they tried to make their escape."

Katanga, who was just 24 at the time of the attack, was convicted in March of being an accessory to war crimes including murder and pillage.

The attack in February 2003 was part of a series of conflicts in the mineral-rich Ituri province in the early 2000s, when armed groups - some of them with links to neighboring countries - vied for control of valuable natural resources.

Katanga's conviction is only the second the ICC has achieved in the 11 years since it was set up with a mandate to bring the perpetrators of the worst international crimes to justice.

All three of its completed cases, including one acquittal, have related to the Ituri conflict, leading analysts to question whether the court really acts as any deterrent.

Even though the war in Ituri officially ended in 2003, violence continues to displace tens of thousands around Congo, with militia leaders undeterred by the threat of prosecution by any authorities, whether local or international. Conflicts still rage both in the northeast and elsewhere in the country.

In Katanga province in the country's southeast, fighting between the Congolese army and various armed groups has displaced some 100,000 people this year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"I don't think the court has had a deterrent effect in Congo," said Phil Clark, a specialist in African politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

"If that was the hope of what the court would deliver, I don't think it's happening."

Katanga could be eligible for early release as soon as next year when he will have served two thirds of his sentence. The time he spent in remand before and during the trial counts towards his sentence.

Katanga was acquitted of charges of rape and using child soldiers, and can appeal against his conviction or sentence.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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