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Human Rights Watch Response to Erroneous Allegations Made before the ICC

Letter to Principal Defense Counsel for Germain Katanga

Mr. Xavier-Jean Keita  
Principal Counsel  
Office of Public Counsel for the Defense  
International Criminal Court  
The Hague, The Netherlands 

Dear Mr. Keita,

We are writing this public letter to express serious concern over recent allegations that you made during the initial appearance of Germain Katanga, the former chief of staff of the Patriotic Force of Resistance in Ituri (FRPI) whom you represented during his initial appearance before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In particular, on October 22, 2007, you stated that Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, visited Mr. Katanga in prison in January or February of 2007. In that meeting, you alleged that Ms.Van Woudenberg questioned Mr. Katanga on the incident outlined in the ICC's arrest warrant against Mr. Katanga.

The statements that you made regarding Ms. Van Woudenberg's communications with Mr. Katanga are erroneous. As a result, Human Rights Watch is concerned that your allegations may create the misperception that Human Rights Watch staff is in some way affiliated with the ICC. This both impugns our reputation and compromises our work, and we believe it must be corrected in the public record immediately.

Ms. Van Woudenberg met with Mr. Katanga only once, on August 25, 2007. At that point in time, the ICC pre-trial chamber had already issued the arrest warrant against Mr. Katanga, which suggests that the Office of the Prosecutor had long finished its investigation against him. Ms. Van Woudenberg had conducted previous visits to Makala prison on September 2 and November 21, 2006 where she had requested to see Mr. Katanga amongst others. However, due to time constraints, the meeting with Mr. Katanga did not take place.

At the August 25th meeting, Mr. Katanga was asked specifically if he would agree to meet with Ms. Van Woudenberg, and he was given the opportunity to refuse the meeting. Ms. Van Woudenberg and Mr. Katanga discussed the details of his case in the national courts and touched on other Ituri matters. At no time did Ms. Van Woudenberg discuss with Mr. Katanga the ICC case. As the contents of the arrest warrant were confidential, Ms. Van Woudenberg had no means of knowing its contents. As Human Rights Watch has not conducted detailed investigations on the human rights violations in Bogoro, the incident alleged in the arrest warrant, this matter was not discussed at all in the meeting between Ms. Van Woudenberg and Mr. Katanga.

Human Rights Watch is an independent, non-governmental organization committed to investigating and reporting human rights abuses throughout the world. In the course of our work, researchers regularly meet with armed group leaders and alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses. Such meetings are an essential part of our work to establish the facts of what happened and to ensure that we offer all sides the right to respond. As part of our mandate as a human rights organization, we also monitor conditions of detention and the judicial process.

We work independently of prosecution and other judicial officials that may be interested in crimes that we have documented for the purpose of pursing a criminal investigation. Our independence is crucial in order for Human Rights Watch to accurately investigate and report on human rights violations. Your statements carried the implication that Ms. Van Woudenberg was somehow working for or with the ICC in relation to the case against Mr. Katanga, and therefore directly compromise both her and Human Rights Watch's reputation for independence and impartiality. It also compromises our ability to effectively gather and report information fully, accurately, and impartially. Far from acting as an arm of the prosecution, Ms. Van Woudenberg expressed concerns to Mr. Katanga about his lengthy detention, and Human Rights Watch has made those concerns public.[1]

We request that you make a motion to remove from the transcript the erroneous statements that you made in relation to Ms. Van Woudenberg's communications with Mr. Katanga. As an alternative, we request, as a matter of urgency, that you clearly state for the record that Ms. Van Woudenberg never had any contact with Mr. Katanga before August 2007 - almost 2 months after the arrest warrant against him was issued - and that during that meeting, the incident in the ICC arrest warrant was never discussed.


Dinah PoKempner
General Counsel
Legal and Policy Office

cc:Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court

[1] "ICC/DRC: Second War Crimes Suspect to Face Justice in The Hague," Human Rights Watch news release, October 18, 2007,

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