ICC approves Congolese warlord Katanga's domestic trial
The International Criminal Court gave Congolese prosecutors the green light Thursday to proceed with a domestic case against convicted warlord Germain Katanga, accused of committing war crimes in the vast African country.
Katanga, 37, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail by the Hague-based ICC two years ago, finished serving a reduced sentence in January in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Instead of being freed however, he remained behind bars with Kinshasa saying they wanted to also try him for "other crimes" committed in the DR Congo's mineral-rich but restive northeastern Ituri province.
Katanga appeared back in the dock with five other co-accused in early February, facing "war crimes, crimes against humanity and participating in an insurrectional movement" in Ituri near the Ugandan border, where some 60,000 people died in fighting between 1999 and 2007.
Katanga's lawyers argued against his prosecution, using an article in the ICC's founding Rome Statute that says a sentenced person cannot be prosecuted in a country where he is serving his sentence without the ICC's approval.
His lawyers also said he cannot be retried in Kinshasa for the same crimes he had been sentenced for by the ICC.
Congolese authorities sent a number of documents to the ICC earlier this year detailing Katanga's alleged crimes and saying it wanted to put him on trial.
"The DRC has clearly indicated that the domestic prosecution of Mr Katanga... relates to crimes other than those for which he has been convicted and acquitted" by the ICC, president judge Sylvia Fernandez de Gurmendi said.
"Therefore, the presidency approves the prosecution of Mr Katanga" in the DR Congo, she said in a court order released at the ICC's headquarters on Thursday.
Katanga was the second person to be sentenced by the ICC since it began work in 2003 as the world's first permanent court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He was brought back from the Dutch city to Kinshasa late last year to complete his term and had been scheduled to walk free on January 18.
He was convicted by the ICC in May 2014 over a 2003 attack on the village of Bogoro that saw 200 people shot and hacked to death. He was acquitted of sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Congolese authorities have claimed Katanga played a role in the killing of nine UN peacekeepers in the violence-torn northeastern region of Ituri in 2005.
DR Congo, a country of more than 67 million people that is Africa's second largest, was torn by two wars between 1996 and 2003 estimated to have cost at least two to three million lives.
© 2016 AFP