ICC: “Middling sentences” for “middling criminals” (Q&A)

11 June 2014 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The sentencing of Germain Katanga last month [IJT-160] at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to 12 years imprisonment is the second in the court’s existence. During extensive post-trial deliberations, his charges were changed – while his co-accused Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was acquitted. The trial chamber was sharply divided, with Judge Christine van den Wyngaert, from Belgium, expressing strong dissenting opinions. Prosecution and defence have declared their intentions to appeal the conviction. 

Q&A – For the IJT, Mark Drumbl, director of the Transnational Law Institute at Washington and Lee University, returns to the sentencing decision.  

What does this sentence tell about the ICC’s sentencing policy? 

Mark Drumbl: Katanga’s sentence reinforces the notion that the principle objectives are retribution and general deterrence. But in practice both of these are very difficult to attain in the cases of serious international crimes. 

In both Lubanga and Katanga, two separate ICC trial chambers were clear that the determination of sentence proceeds along two steps. First, gravity; then individualized circumstances (aggravating or mitigating factors). Gravity can be measured by the extent of the harm caused and by the extent of the perpetrator’s involvement therein. Katanga was only found to be an accessory, and for that reason the dissenting judge would have acquitted him on all charges. 

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