International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Western Union Official Testifies about Transactions in Bemba Witness Tampering Trial

A senior executive with the money transfer firm Western Union told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the company provided ICC prosecution investigators with details about money transfers after receiving a court order.

During his three days of testimony before Trial Chamber VII, Herbert Smetana described how Western Union responded to requests for information about specific transactions the service provider may have facilitated. Smetana testified between November 2 and November 4, 2015 in his capacity as the director of global investigations for Western Union.

Smetana told the court that such requests usually come to his office and Western Union only provided the information requested on the basis of a court order. He explained that as Western Union was headquartered in Austria, the … Continue Reading

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Witnesses Testify Mostly in Private Sessions in Bemba Witness Tampering Trial

The trial hearings in the witness tampering case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) involving former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and four associates have been held mainly in private sessions.

The majority of prosecution witnesses who testified before Trial Chamber VII between October 15 and October 28 have been people who were allegedly corruptly influenced to give false testimony in defense of Bemba, who has been on trial at the ICC since November 2010 for rape, murder, and pillaging reportedly committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops when they were deployed in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

Some the witnesses who testified did so via video link from a location not disclosed publicly. … Continue Reading

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Analyst: Intercepted Calls Show Prohibited Contact between Bemba’s Lawyer and Witnesses

An analyst with the prosecution office at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has testified that intercepted communications and phone records show that Jean-Pierre Bemba’s former lead defense lawyer was in contact with witnesses during periods when such contact was prohibited.

The analyst, who works with the Investigative Strategies and Analysis Unit of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), said that Aime Kilolo Musamba phoned seven defense witnesses and sent text messages to an undisclosed number of witnesses during the period of their testimony. The analyst testified on September 30, 2015 under the pseudonym Witness P-433, and was the first witness the prosecution called in the witness tampering trial against Bemba and four others.

Based on a study of various communication logs, the … Continue Reading

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Witness Tampering Case Opens at the ICC

The trial of former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and his four associates opened on Sept. 29 at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The prosecution gave opening statements detailing accusations of witness tampering during Bemba’s other trial at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The five are accused of offences against the administration of justice. They allegedly illegally influenced witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony, all perpetrated in various ways including by committing, soliciting, inducing, aiding, abetting, or otherwise assisting in their commission.

Among those who are on trial with Bemba are his former lead defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo Musamba and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. Former defense witness Narcisse Arido and Fidèle … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Witness Tampering Trial Opens Sept. 29

The trial of former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo and his four associates opens Sept. 29 at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The five are accused of offences against the administration of justice in connection with the testimonies of witnesses who testified in Bemba’s previous trial for murder, rape, and pillaging allegedly committed by his fighters.

Among those who will go on trial with Bemba are his former lead defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo Musamba and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo. Others are former defense witness Narcisse Arido and Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the Congolese parliament who was a chief of staff to Mr. Bemba while he was vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The offences … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Lawyers Continue to Seek Stay Proceedings in War Crimes Trial

For the second time since International Criminal Court (ICC) judges stopped receiving evidence in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s war crimes trial, his lawyers are fighting to secure a stay of proceedings, this time citing late disclosure of evidence by the prosecution.

This application comes days after trial judges dismissed the first defense motion for a stay of proceedings, which was filed last December and cited abuse of process and breach of privileges and immunities by the prosecution. In a June 17, 2015 ruling, trial judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Kuniko Ozaki, and Joyce Aluoch found that the defense failed to substantiate the potential or actual impact of prosecution measures that justified a stay of proceedings.

“Nearly three years after the start of the defense case, … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Lawyers and Aides Could Be Sent Back to ICC Detention

Appeals judges have found that a pre-trial judge made three errors last October when he ordered the interim release of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s four co-accused from International Criminal Court (ICC) detention.

In separate May 29 rulings, the judges reversed two decisions that ordered the interim release of Mr. Bemba, his two former lawyers, and two other associates from court custody. While the Appeals Chamber found that it would not be in the interests of justice to rearrest four of the suspects, given the time that had passed since they were released; it did remand the matter to the trial chamber to determine whether those who were released should be rearrested.

The five accused go on trial this September for corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Second ICC Trial to Open in September

The witness and evidence tampering trial of former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four former associates opens this September at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the court announced today.

Today, judges instructed the prosecution to file a list of evidence to be relied on at trial, as well as a list of witnesses, by June 30, three months ahead of the September 29 trial opening date.

Those to be tried alongside Mr. Bemba include Aimé Kilolo Musamba, former head of the legal team that defended Mr. Bemba in a war crimes trial at the court, and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, previously the case manager on that defense team. They also include a former defense witness and a member of the Congolese … Continue Reading

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Appeals Judges Decline to Release Bemba From ICC Detention

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have rejected Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba’s appeal for interim release.

In a unanimous decision, a summary of which was issued in court this morning, the appeals chamber agreed with trial judges that Mr. Bemba should remain in detention pending the verdict of his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Mr. Bemba has been in detention in The Hague since 2008, following his arrest in Belgium, where he maintains a residence, and transfer to the court.

Last December, trial judges declined to release him on bail, saying this was to ensure his appearance at trial. They argued that the end of the presentation of evidence phase of the proceedings and commencement of deliberations was … Continue Reading

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Bemba and His Former Lawyers Fear Continued Surveillance

Jean-Pierre Bemba and his former lawyers with whom he faces an impending trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) are wary that their communications are still under surveillance at the behest of the prosecution.

However, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) has denied that the communications of Mr. Bemba, his former lead defense counsel Aime Kilolo Musamba, and case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, are still being monitored. The prosecution also said there was no ongoing monitoring of the communications of former defense witness Narcisse Arido and Congolese parliamentarian Fidèle Babala Wandu.

The five individuals are due to go on trial later this year for corruptly influencing witnesses who testified in the trial of Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of Congo whose … Continue Reading

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