International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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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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Bemba Judgment Imminent

This Monday, Trial Chamber III at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver the verdict in the Jean-Pierre Bemba trial, which has been ongoing since November 2010. Bemba is charged with war crimes (rape, murder, and pillaging) and crimes against humanity (rape and murder) allegedly committed during an internal conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

Bemba is the former president and command in chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), a rebel group turned political party in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The prosecution accuses MLC troops of committing crimes, which include widespread sexual violence, in the CAR when they were in the country to help its former president, Ange-Félix Patassé, fight … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyers’ Payments to Witnesses in Focus at ICC Trial

The nature and amount of payments made to witnesses called to testify in trials at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been in focus in the witness tampering trial of former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, his former lawyers, and two other associates.

The issue of payments to witnesses is at the heart of the trial, which opened last September. Prosecutors claim that Bemba, through his former lawyers and other associates, made payments to witnesses as an inducement for them to provide false testimony. Furthermore, the prosecution alleges that defense lawyers coached witnesses and maintained improper contacts with them – including making phone calls to the witnesses while they testified for Bemba in his trial for war crimes and crimes against … Continue Reading

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Bemba and Associates Start Their Defense in Witness Tampering Trial

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four associates have started their defense in the evidence tampering trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The charges arise from alleged bribery and coaching of witnesses to provide false testimony in Bemba’s main trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, in which a verdict will be delivered on March 21, 2016.

Presentation of the defense case is expected to last for a few weeks, with no more than 20 witnesses testifying. Some defense teams have indicated they will question some of their witnesses for as few as 15 minutes, with the highest being three hours. In other trials before the ICC, calling parties question some of their witnesses for up to … Continue Reading

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Bemba and Associates Set to Begin Defense in Witness Tampering Case

Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four associates are set to begin their defense in the witness tampering trial that opened last September at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The five accused asked to call a total of 26 witnesses, but at least six of the proposed witnesses may not testify.

The former Congolese opposition leader, his previous lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Congolese legislator Fidèle Babala Wandu, and former defense witness Narcisse Arido are on trial for corruptly influencing witnesses by allegedly giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony before the ICC. According to the prosecution, the evidence tampering charges relate to the testimony of 14 witnesses who testified for Bemba in his main trial over war … Continue Reading

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