Summer Collection 2023 – Uncomfortable Justice with Lisa Clifford

It’s the last of our summer series before we return with brand new episodes next week. Today we provide a blast from the past. This episode originally aired in 2020 and calls into question all the lofty ideals of the international justice system that many hold dear.

From 2009 to 2014 the ICC was the venue for the trial of two former militia leaders from the Ituri province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One was released but the other, Germain Katanga, was found guilty as an accessory to one count of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes. The curious thing about this case was that Katanga had the initial charges against him changed by the judges, after all the evidence was heard and after he’d spoken directly to the court to say sorry – admitting his guilt. After sentencing he stayed in The Hague for a few months; because his trial had taken so long, he had technically served his sentence. And then, he went back to the DRC.

There, he was put in jail again. This time by the Kinshasa authorities, on new war crimes charges. His lawyer David Hooper tried to get the ICC to intervene, but was turned down; Hooper says The Hague has basically washed its hands of responsibility for Katanga in the intended ‘re-trial’.

Germain Katanga with his Defence team at the hearing for the purpose of the review concerning the reduction of his sentence, in ICC Courtroom I on 6 October 2015 ©ICC-CPI

In this episode, we examine Katanga’s journey through the international justice system with the help of Lisa Clifford. Lisa had been fascinated by Katanga’s story and had visited him in the Scheveningen detention unit, and again in the main prison in Kinshasa. During this time Lisa was working on a film, Militia Man, in which the lawyers take an apology by Katanga to the village of Bogoro where Katanga’s crimes had taken place. We try to unpack the winners and losers of such a case at the ICC and who actually benefits from the ‘justice’ that it hands down.

Since this episode originally aired, Katanga was released from prison in the DRC in March 2020. Katanga was released alongside Thomas Lubanga, the leader of a rival militia group and the first person to be convicted by the ICC, in the hopes it would resolve tensions in the Ituri province.

For recommendations from this episode, we obviously have to suggest Lisa’s film, Militia Man. In this episode, there is also a lot of discussion about modes of liability, and for a better understanding of how they work at the ICC, check out our episode with Elies van Sliedregt.

And tune in next week for a new episode.