THE HAGUE - The International Criminal Court on Friday sentenced Congolese militia boss Germain "Simba" Katanga to 12 years in jail for arming an ethnic militia that carried out a "particularly cruel" 2003 village massacre.
"The chamber sentences Germain Katanga to 12 years in prison," presiding Judge Bruno Cotte told the Hague-based tribunal when it handed down its second sentence since opening in 2003.
The almost seven years that Katanga has already spend in detention will be deducted from the sentence, he said.
Katanga, 36, was convicted in March of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and pillaging, for his role in the attack on Bogoro village in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on February 24, 2003.
Judges found that he armed fighters of the Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri (FRPI) who carried out the village massacre in which more than 200 people died.
"The scars of the fighting that occurred that day are still be seen today," Judge Cotte said on Friday.
The use of machetes in the attack was "particularly cruel and caused extreme suffering", Cotte added.
Dressed in a smart charcoal suit, the man once known as "Simba" (lion), showed no emotion as Cotte read the sentence. During the hearing, he sat with his hands folded in front of him with his gaze fixed on the judge.
Katanga has already spent seven years in detention. PHOTO/AFP
'Dead bodies everywhere'
Katanga remained motionless as the judge described the horrors of the slaughter.
"The attackers literally carved up their victims limb from limb before they were killed," the judge said.
"After the attack, dead bodies lay everywhere."
However, the ICC cleared Katanga of charges of rape, sexual slavery and using child soldiers.
Katanga's lawyers have appealed his conviction and now have another 30 days to appeal his sentence.
"We (still) have to think about whether we will appeal," lawyer David Hooper told AFP shortly after the sentencing.
Hooper added that Katanga could ask for early release after serving three-quarters of his sentence, but a decision "is discretionary and could take time."
Rights groups, which previously expressed concern that the ICC's judges did not address the issue of sexual crimes committed during the attack, welcomed the sentence.
"Victims of the attack on Bogoro village have obtained a measure of important justice for the crimes committed against them, families and fellow citizens," said William Pace, convener for the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a large global partnership formed to boost international cooperation with the ICC and help end impunity.
In Kinshasa, Congolese Action for Human Rights director Junior Safari Runiga welcomed the judgement but urged that victims be paid compensation.
"Until today, children still can't go to school, people are disabled and people are still traumatised," he said.
Martin Kobler, the UN special envoy in DRC, welcomed the decision and said it supported ongoing UN-backed efforts to root out armed militias and rebellions in the country.
"Combatting impunity is central to stabilising the DRC and establishing a durable peace," said Kobler, who is also the head of MONUSCO, a large peacekeeping force currently battling rebels in the east.
Katanga's lawyers have appealed his conviction and now have another 30 days to appeal his sentence. PHOTO/AFP
Two warlords sentenced
The sentence is the court's second since opening its doors in 2003. Another Congolese warlord and one-time adversary of Katanga, Thomas Lubanga, was given a jail term of 14 years in July 2012 for recruiting and enlisting child soldiers.
The Ituri region where the Bogoro massacre occurred has been riven by violence since 1999, when clashes broke out that killed at least 60,000 people, according to rights groups.
In 2003, the DR Congo was just emerging from a war that embroiled the armies of at least half a dozen nations on rival sides, and its isolated east was rife with violent militias including the FRPI.
Fighting has been driven by ethnic conflict and battles between rival militias for control of the region's rich haul of gold, oil and diamonds.
In 2004, Katanga was made a general in President Joseph Kabila's army as part of a policy to end the strife, which included taking former foes into military ranks -- until Kinshasa authorities arrested him in 2005.
He was transferred to The Hague in October 2007 and his trial, together with that of his fellow defendant Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, started two years later.
Judges in November 2012 split the trials and Ngudjolo was acquitted a year later after the ICC ruled that he did not play a commanding role in the Bogoro attack.