“Nothing and no one was spared”

From August 2002 to July 2003, rival rebel groups in Congo fought a bloody power struggle. Two militia leaders now face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They are accused of indescribable atrocities.

Germain Katanga (31) and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chuis (39) are accused of mass murder, rape, recruiting child soldiers and attacking civilians. Both men denied the allegations. This is the second war crimes trial in Congo.The two rebel leaders had planned and ordered a "ruthless and systematic attack" on the village of Bogoro in the eastern province of Ituri in February 2003, said chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. "The goal was to wipe out Bogoro." At least 200 people were killed, according to the indictment. "They were shot, cut to pieces with machetes or burned alive," said Moreno-Ocampo.With deadpan faces, Katanga and Ngudjolo followed the prosecution's opening statement. Moreno-Ocampo cited eyewitnesses that hundreds of women and girls were raped and made sex slaves for the rebels. Children are said to have been taken prisoner and forced to fight. Katanga himself had stated after the attack, "Nothing and no one was spared.

"Trial will last several months Survivors, many of them children, were severely traumatized, legal representatives of 345 victims told the court. Most lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo as refugees without any assistance. "They hope that finally someone will be held accountable for these crimes," said opera lawyer Jean-Louis Gilissen. They could not understand why many of those responsible were still free. In the trial, the victims are represented as full litigants.From August 2002 to July 2003, rival rebel groups from the Hema and Landi tribes engaged in a bloody power struggle for control of the rich and fertile Ituri region. On 24. February, Katanga's FRPI rebels and FNI militias led by Ngudjolo of the Landi tribe attacked Bogoro because it was controlled by Hema henchmen led by militia leader Thomas Lubanga. Lubanga has also been facing charges of war crimes in Ituri at the Hague Criminal Court since the beginning of this year.The trial of Katanga and Ngudjolo, who were arrested in 2007, is expected to last several months. Prosecution plans to subpoena 26 witnesses and present numerous pieces of evidence such as video footage. The court already ied a fourth arrest warrant for civil war crimes in Congo. More could follow. According to the prosecution, the investigation is still ongoing.

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Christina Cherry
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