International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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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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