International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Monthly Archives: November 2012

MLC Court Martial Trials Dominate Bemba’s Trial

This week, testimony at the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba centered on the conduct of court martial proceedings against Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers accused of various offenses.

Two witnesses, both former members of the group led by the accused, gave evidence, bringing the number of witnesses to 14 who have testified for Mr. Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Judges granted ‘Witness D04-016’ and ‘Witness D04-066’ protective measures in order to conceal their identities.

‘Witness D04-016’ testified for four days about disciplinary procedures in the MLC, as well as trials conducted by the court martial. This witness was a military officer in the MLC and also sat on the court martial that tried seven soldiers accused of committing … Continue Reading

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New Witness Questioned About Bemba’s Visit to Bangui

A witness who started testifying today spoke briefly about the visit by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba to the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui but gave details of that visit in private session.

‘Witness D04-066’ testified at the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the use of a pseudonym, and his face and voice were distorted in public rebroadcasts of his testimony. In the brief testimony he gave in open court, the witness stated that he was in Bangui between October 2002 and March 2003. It was during this period that Mr. Bemba had sent his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops to that country, where insurgents were trying to topple President Ange-Félix Patassé.

“I didn’t see him … Continue Reading

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Thirteenth Witness Completes Testimony in Bemba Trial

At the conclusion of his testimony today, a former member of the court martial constituted by war crimes indictee Jean-Pierre Bemba defended the integrity of the trials they held for unruly soldiers.

‘Witness D04-016’ told the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the court martial was presided over by a civilian career magistrate. The prosecutor and registrar were also career judicial officers in the employment of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the witness, while military courts in most countries do not have civilian members, Mr. Bemba’s group appointed civilian judicial officials to its court martial as there were not enough qualified military officers to sit on the military court.

‘Witness D04-016,’ a former military officer … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Court Martial Trials Under Scrutiny

The operating procedures of the court martial set up by Jean-Pierre Bemba has today remained the focus of scrutiny by judges, the prosecution, and lawyers representing victims in the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

During today’s hearing, the methods used by the court martial to try and convict seven soldiers of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) accused of committing crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR) came under keen examination during the questioning of a former member of the court martial.

Prosecutors at the ICC – where Mr. Bemba faces war crimes and crimes against humanity – have suggested that the court martial trials were stage-managed and that the tribunal trying the soldiers was a sham. Mr. … Continue Reading

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Prosecution Questions Competence of MLC Court Martial

Today, the prosecution questioned the fairness of trials conducted by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), suggesting that suspects were not given sufficient legal assistance. Moreover, the prosecution, which was cross-examining a former member of the court martial,  questioned the legal qualifications of some members of the court.

Prosecuting lawyer Thomas Bifwoli asked the witness, who testified under the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-016,’ whether he studied law. The witness responded that he took some law courses during his military training. Regarding the defense counsel that the court martial appointed for soldiers on trial, ‘Witness D0-016’ said this individual was fully qualified as a lawyer in accordance with the laws of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the … Continue Reading

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Witness Describes Disciplinary Procedures in Bemba’s Militia

The latest witness to testify for former Congolese senator Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday stated that the accused set up a court martial in 2002 to uphold military discipline amongst his soldiers. Furthermore, the witness who testified under the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-016′ stated that discipline among Mr. Bemba’s soldiers was “good” and in accordance with a strict code of conduct.

‘Witness D04-016′ stated that, by decree, Mr. Bemba set up a court martial in Gbadolite in the Democratic Republic of Congo as early as February 2002. The court was presided over by a career magistrate, who had been appointed by Congolese authorities before Mr. Bemba’s group assumed administrative control over the territory. “It had jurisdiction over … Continue Reading

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After Case Closed, Judges Propose Changes to the Charges Against Germain Katanga

On November 21, 2012, a majority of Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Judge Christine Van Den Wyngaert dissenting, informed the parties in the trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui that it is considering a re-characterization of the facts of the case concerning the mode of liability applicable to Germain Katanga. Due to this development in the case against Katanga, the judges severed the two cases and will deliver the verdict for Ngudjolo on December 18, 2012.

Katanga and Ngudjolo have been charged with three crimes against humanity and seven war crimes. They were accused under Article 25(3)(a) of having committed the crimes through “indirect co-perpetration,” where the accused used hierarchical organizations Force de résistance patriotique … Continue Reading

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Former MLC Insider Defends Discipline Among Bemba’s Soldiers

This week, the Jean-Pierre Bemba trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was dominated by disputes over the date that his troops were deployed in the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), whether those troops respected the group’s military code of conduct, and Mr. Bemba’s ability to issue orders to commanders on the battlefront.

In the witness stand was a former insider in the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), who went by the court-given name ‘Witness D04-49.’ He testified for five days, detailing the lead up to the deployment of the Congolese fighters into the neighboring country, the prosecution of soldiers accused of committing abuses, and the operational command structures within the group Mr. Bemba led.

He said the … Continue Reading

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MLC ‘Popularized Code of Conduct Among Soldiers’

In his last day of testimony, a former insider in the group led by war crimes indictee Jean-Pierre Bemba stated that in a bid to popularize their military code of conduct, the code was produced in the Congolese language Lingala and in French.

“Rules of discipline were drafted in French, but for purposes of getting the soldiers to memorize it, the document was translated,” stated the witness, who started testifying in Mr. Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday. In addition to using an in-court pseudonym, public broadcasts of his testimony had his image and voice distorted in order to conceal his identity.

In his earlier testimony,  ‘Witness D04-49′ stated that soldiers belonging to the accused’s Movement for the Liberation … Continue Reading

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Court dismisses request to suspend proceedings in case challenging Kenyatta, Ruto presidential bids

The Kenyan High Court read the Riot Act to a lawyer representing petitioners who are asking the court to determine whether two Kenyan accused facing trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are eligible to run for president.

A three-judge panel warned Ambrose Weda against further delays in starting hearings into the petition his clients filed in January this year. Judges Isaak Lenaola, Mohammed Abdullahi Warsame, and Philemona Mbete Mwilu warned Weda on Friday after they rejected an application he made asking them to suspend proceedings.

The judges observed that months had passed since the petition was initially filed and yet Weda had not even served Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and former Cabinet William Samoei Ruto with it. They questioned … Continue Reading

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