International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Bemba Faces Second ICC Trial on Charges of Corrupting Witnesses

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have confirmed charges of corruptly influencing witnesses against Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates and committed them to trial.

Pre-Trial Chamber II found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Bemba, his two former lawyers, a defense witness and Congolese parliamentarian, implemented a “strategy” to present false evidence in Bemba’s ongoing trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The alleged crimes involved the corruption of 14 witnesses between 2011 and November 2013 in various locations, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

The witnesses involved are ‘Witness D04-02,’ ‘Witness D04-03,’ ‘Witness D0d-04,’ ‘Witness D04-06,’ ‘Witness D04-13,’ ‘Witness D04-15,’ ‘Witness D04-23,’ ‘Witness D04-25,’ ‘Witness D04-29,’ ‘Witness D04-54,’ ‘Witness … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyers Ask ICC Judges to Acquit Bemba

Defense lawyers have implored judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba, stating that the prosecution failed to prove its allegations against the former Congolese opposition leader.

In closing oral remarks at the court in The Hague, lead defense lawyer Peter Haynes said the prosecution’s evidence was “selective, narrow,” and “unfair” and added that if Mr. Bemba is convicted, countries would find it difficult to offer military assistance to others however righteous the cause might be.

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba as commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia bears responsibility for the murder, rape, and pillaging his soldiers committed during a conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The soldiers … Continue Reading

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Prosecutors Ask ICC Judges to Convict Bemba

Today, the prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC) made a final plea to judges to convict former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba for the rape, murder, and looting committed by his troops in 2002 and 2003.

Prosecution lawyers recounted gang-rapes of women and men in public view, murders “in pursuance of an organizational policy” to brutalize civilians, and the looting of goods that were sold on behalf Mr. Bemba’s commanders. The crimes were allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

According to the prosecution, as commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), Mr. Bemba bears responsibility for failing to prevent or to punish his soldiers who committed the crimes. Mr. Bemba’s MLC troops were sent to the CAR … Continue Reading

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Overview of Bemba’s Trial at the ICC

Next week, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges will hear the closing oral arguments in the trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who has been on trial at the world court since 2010.

The trial is focused on Mr. Bemba’s alleged failure to control or punish his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers who committed rape, murder, and pillaging. It heard the testimony of 34 defense witnesses, 40 prosecution witnesses, and one witness called by judges. The trial also heard the testimony of two victims. In October 2014, judges also recalled a prosecution witness, who originally testified in July 2011, to provide evidence on alleged payments by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in exchange for the testimonies of … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Indicted Lawyer Denied Entry to The UK

The United Kingdom has revoked the visa for Jean-Pierre Bemba’s indicted lawyer Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, who is in detention at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over witness tampering accusations. The visa was due to expire in August 2015.

In an October 22, 2014 letter to the court, the British embassy in The Hague stated that the UK had “decided to revoke the multiple entry visa issued to Mr Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, with immediate effect, on the grounds that a change of circumstances since the entry clearance was issued had removed the basis of his claim to be admitted to the United Kingdom.”

The letter was in response to a notification by the court to British authorities of a judge’s October 21 order … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Lawyer, Aides Released From ICC Detention

Today, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s former lead defense lawyer and two associates were released from International Criminal Court (ICC) detention. The trio, along with another former lawyer to the Congolese opposition leader, had been held in The Hague for nearly a year on accusations of bribing witnesses and forging evidence.

According to a statement from the court, defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo Musamba was released in Belgium, Bemba’s former chief of staff Fidèle Babala Wandu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and defense witness Narcisse Arido in France. Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, who was Mr. Bemba’s case manager at the time of his arrest, will be released as soon as the ICC Registry finalized all the necessary arrangements.

On Tuesday this week, pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser … Continue Reading

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Recalled Witness in Bemba Trial to Testify in Closed Session

All testimony by a prosecution witness who was recalled by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to give evidence on issues of witness credibility in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba will be heard in closed session.

“The testimony of Witness 169 will be heard in full closed session,” announced Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner at the start of hearings this morning. The witness is scheduled to testify over three days until Friday 24.

Judge Steiner explained that the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) conducted a security assessment to determine if the protective measures that were in place for the witness during his initial appearance before the court should remain in force. Based on the assessment, judges did not consider it necessary to alter the … Continue Reading

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Judge Orders Interim Release of Bemba Lawyers

An International Criminal Court (ICC) judge has ordered the release of the former head of Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba’s defense team, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, and former case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo.

The lawyers, who have been in detention in The Hague for nearly a year, were arrested following accusations of corruptly influencing witnesses and presenting forged evidence before the court.

Pre-trial chamber judge Cuno Tarfusser also ordered the release of Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala-Wandu and defense witness Narcisse Arido.

Release of the quartet is conditional upon the court’s registry ensuring they indicate the addresses at which they will be staying and sign personal commitments to appear when summoned. The suspects could remain in detention if the prosecution successfully appeals for … Continue Reading

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Hearing of Recalled Prosecution Witness in Bemba Trial Postponed

The hearing scheduled for this week to consider additional evidence from a witness who previously testified for the prosecution in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial has been cancelled due to undisclosed logistical reasons.

‘Witness 169’ was recalled by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to testify about allegations of collusion between prosecution witnesses and the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). It is alleged that the OTP made payments to witnesses in exchange for their testimony. The witness had been scheduled to testify at the seat of the court on October 14 and 15. However, court officials said today that logistical difficulties had prompted the postponement of the hearing. New dates would be confirmed in due course.

On October 2, 2014, judges issued a notice temporarily reopening the presentation of … Continue Reading

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Bemba Trial: Prosecution Witness Recalled to Testify About Payments

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have reopened the presentation of evidence in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial in order to hear the testimony of a prosecution witness on issues of witness credibility.

‘Witness 169′ is expected to testify at the seat of the court in The Hague on October 14, 2014 on alleged collusion between prosecution witnesses that may impact the probative value or credibility of their testimony and promises made or benefits provided by the prosecution in exchange for their testimony.

According to an October 2, 2014 notice, judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki decided to recall this witness following a request by the defense after the prosecution disclosed a document related to this witness. The defense had sought the recall … Continue Reading

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