International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Bemba Given 18-Year Jail Sentence at ICC

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba has been sentenced to 18 years in jail following his conviction for failing to prevent his troops from committing crimes. The sentence is the longest ever to be handed out at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has so far convicted three individuals.

Judge Sylvia Steiner, who presided over Bemba’s trial that opened in November 2010, said the crimes of rape, pillaging, and murder committed by Bemba’s soldiers were of “serious gravity,” and were committed with particular cruelty against defenseless civilians. She also said at the sentencing hearing that Bemba did not genuinely intend to take all reasonable measures to repress the commission of crimes. Instead, his actions were means to counter public allegations and … Continue Reading

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Bemba Sentence to be Delivered on June 21

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Congolese vice president who was convicted for failing to deter crimes by his soldiers, will have his sentence handed down by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges on June 21. According to an order by judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki, the sentence will be delivered in The Hague at 13:45 Central European Time during a public hearing.

Whereas prosecutors have asked for a minimum of 25 years in jail, his lawyers have argued that the time the Congolese politician has already spent in jail is proportionate to the crimes he was convicted for.

Bemba, 51, has been in ICC detention since June 2008. His trial opened in November 2010, and earlier this year judges convicted … Continue Reading

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Indicted Bemba Lawyer Tells ICC Judges He Didn’t Know Witnesses Were Lying

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the defense lawyer on trial for allegedly bribing and coaching witnesses to provide false testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has denied knowing that witnesses were giving false evidence.

“Nothing suggested to us or to me that the witnesses were lying about the events they were describing or their participation in the events,” said Kilolo in an unsworn statement. “All the counsels, all the legal assistants were convinced that these witnesses were clearly credible, clearly relevant.”

Kilolo was addressing judges as part of the final oral statements in the trial that started last September. He is being tried alongside former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, his former case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Congolese legislator Fidèle Babala Wandu, and … Continue Reading

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Bemba Has Served His Sentence, Defense Lawyers Tell ICC Judges

Lawyers for former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba have asked International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to hand him a light sentence, arguing that the eight years he has spent in detention are proportionate to the crimes he was convicted of.

“He has not only reached but long ago passed the time when his sentence should have ended,” said defense lawyer Peter Haynes, at today’s sentencing hearing. Bemba, who has been in ICC detention since July 2008, was found guilty last March of failing to suppress the commission of rape, murder, and pillaging by his troops who were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003.

Bemba himself was in Congo at the time 1,500 of the more than 20,000 … Continue Reading

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Criticism and Compliments for Bemba’s Troops at Sentencing Hearing

During hearings conducted before International Criminal Court (ICC) judges decide Jean-Pierre Bemba’s sentence (following his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity), divergent viewpoints were heard on the conduct of his troops. A clergy commended Bemba’s troops for protecting civilians in Congo, but two victims recounted rape ordeals at the hands of these fighters when they were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Bishop Fridolin Ambongo, the head of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission in Congo, said the arrival of Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops in that country’s Équateur province brought peace and stability for civilians. The residents had previously suffered at the hands of government troops, who looted and destroyed “everything” in the … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer on Trial at ICC for Witness Tampering to Make Unsworn Statement

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the former lead defense lawyer for Jean-Pierre Bemba, will make an unsworn oral statement before judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the hearing of closing statements in the witness tampering trial against him, Bemba and three others. Fidèle Babala Wandu, a Member of Parliament and former aid to Bemba when he was vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is also expected to make an unsworn oral statement in hearings scheduled to commence on May 31, 2016.

In a May 12 ruling granting their requests to make unsworn statements, Judge Bertram Schmitt said he would not “circumscribe” what Kilolo and Babala can say in their one hour long statements. However, he rejected a request by … Continue Reading

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ICC Prosecutor Seeks 25 Year Jail Term for Bemba

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has asked judges to sentence former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba to a minimum of 25 years in jail. According to Bensouda, as the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), Bemba bears the “highest degree” of culpability for crimes committed by his troops against civilians in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003.

“Deterrence is one of the main purposes of sentencing,” said Bensouda in submissions to judges on the sentence for the former rebel leader-turned politician. “A long sentence, proportionate to the gravity of Bemba’s culpability would also pursue the objective of deterring other military commanders from committing similar crimes.”

Bemba, who has been in court custody since 2008, … Continue Reading

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Bishop, Trauma Expert, and Two Victims to Testify at Bemba’s Sentencing Hearing

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges will hear the evidence of two witnesses as part of the sentencing hearing for Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Congolese vice president who was last March found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The judges will also hear the views and concerns of two victims. However, judges rejected a request by Bemba’s lawyers to recall two individuals who testified for the defense during the trial.

The sentencing hearing will be held on May 16 to 18 at the court in The Hague. The witnesses who will testify are Dr. Daryn Reicherter, who will testify for the prosecution, and Bishop Fridolin Ambongo, who will testify as a character witness for Bemba.

According to an order issued by … Continue Reading

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Reactions to Bemba’s Conviction

The conviction of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba has received wide coverage online, with numerous media outlets highlighting the significance of the verdict for the responsibility of commanders to discipline their forces, and others stressing the significance of the court’s recognition of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Bemba, a former rebel leader who later served as a vice president in Congo, was on March 21 found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). International Criminal Court (ICC) judges ruled that as commander-in-chief of the rebel force known as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), he knew that his troops were brutalizing civilians in the … Continue Reading

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Bemba Found Guilty Over Rapes, Murders in Central African Republic

Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former rebel-turned-opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been found guilty of crimes, including rape and murder, which were committed by his troops against civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR).

In a unanimous judgement announced at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this afternoon, judges determined that Bemba knew that his forces were committing or about to commit crimes, but he failed to take reasonable measures to deter or to punish these crimes.

According to the judges, Bemba’s actions, which included general public statements to troops not to mistreat civilians, formation of two investigative commissions, and the trial of seven low-ranking soldiers on charges of pillaging goods of limited value, were “a grossly inadequate response to the consistent … Continue Reading

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