International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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Prosecutor to Call Eleven Witnesses in Bemba’s Second Trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor intends to call 11 witnesses to testify against Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four former associates on charges of witness and evidence tampering. However, trial judges have suggested this number is too high and that the trial needs to “begin and proceed immediately.”

During a status conference held today, prosecution lawyer Kweku Vanderpuye stated that the 11 witnesses they intended to call included three expert witnesses.

According to defense lawyers for the five accused persons, all the material related to the prosecution’s witnesses should be disclosed in “sufficient time” to allow them to analyze the evidence and conduct their own investigations. The prosecution said it had completed 90 to 95 percent of disclosures.

Taking into account written and oral submissions made by … Continue Reading

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Second ICC Trial Looming for Bemba

A second trial for Jean Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is now imminent after the court’s Presidency named judges to try the Congolese opposition leader and his four associates. Trial Chamber VII was constituted after a pre-trial judge rejected their bid to appeal the confirmation of charges decision.

Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji will preside over the trial of the five individuals accused of corruptly influencing witnesses that testified in Mr. Bemba’s trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC. The other judges that make up the chamber are Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr.

Last November, the pre-trial chamber found that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Bemba, his two former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba … Continue Reading


Bemba Takes Interim Release Bid to Appeals Judges

Jean-Pierre Bemba has taken his bid for interim release from International Criminal Court (ICC) detention to the appeals chamber after trial judges rejected his application to be freed on bail just before Christmas Day.

Mr. Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), has been in detention in The Hague since 2008. He had requested to be freed provisionally either to Portugal or Belgium for the period of the deliberations prior to rendering of a judgement on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Alternatively, he appealed for release for the period of the judicial winter recess and during the weekends prior to rendering of the judgement.

However, in their ruling last December 23, judges determined that there … 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


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


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