Why Did Katanga Drop His Appeal? And Why Did the OTP?

by Kevin Jon Heller

Many people are surprised that Germain Katanga has dropped his appeal, particularly given Judge Van den Wyngaert’s savage dissent. I’m not surprised in the least, because it locks in his sentence, which the OTP planned to appeal. Katanga’s 12-year sentence is even shorter than Lubanga’s, and he has already spent seven years in pre-trial detention. In fact, he’ll be eligible for sentence review in little more than a year.

To be sure, if Katanga thought he had a good chance of overturning his conviction on appeal, I’m sure he would have rolled the dice. But I think his assessment of that likelihood was spot-on. As I’ve noted before, the verdict was a disaster for the OTP — had the Trial Chamber majority not appointed itself backup prosecutors, Katanga would have walked. And despite Judge Van den Wyngaert’s impressive dissent, the Appeals Chamber was very unlikely to disapprove of the Trial Chamber’s unfair use of Regulation 55. After all, the Appeals Chamber has already issued two horrible decisions affirming its applicability.

The big question in my mind is why the OTP agreed to drop its appeal, which was obviously part of a quid pro quo. Unlike Katanga, the OTP had little to lose by appealing — there is no way the Appeals Chamber would have reduced Katanga’s sentence, and for the reasons above it’s equally unlikely it would have overturned his conviction.

If any readers know — or can intelligently speculate about — the OTP’s motivations, please weigh in below.


6 Responses

  1. Could it be that the OTP did not want to risk the Appeals Chamber changing its opinion on Regulation 55? Or that it simply wanted to leave this case, which had a rather satisfactory outcome for the OTP anyway, and focus its resources on other matters?

  2. Why Katanga dropped his appeal: I asked his lawyer and the motivation seems to be rather personal than legal:
    Still he was aware of real chances for acquittal. But chose certainty.

    About the OTP: Probably Maya is right and the risk of getting nothing was too high. Katanga’s withdrawal was a good exit opportunity.

  3. On the OTP side, I don’t think there was any serious risk that the AC would overturn the conviction. But on the upside there was only the uncertain prospect of getting a few more years on the sentence. And my guess is that the AC will generally be pretty deferential to TC sentences. In addition, mounting an appeal and defending another one is a lot of work and absorbs a lot of resources. So given the very limited resources of the prosecution, the amount of work the appeals would require, and the uncertain prospect of limited gains on the sentence, this was actually an easy call for the OTP.

  4. Thanks, Alex. That makes perfect sense.

  5. To add to Alex’s comments, if there were chances of provoking a bad decision (e.g. even just dicta on the appropriate length of sentences contrary to the OTP’s position), but the possible wins were only modest, there was little reason to push forward.

  6. guys, this is a common agreement… “HELLO”

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