International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Bemba Pleads With ICC Appeals Judges for Reduced Sentence

Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has pleaded with appeals judges to lower his sentence, arguing that the nearly ten years he has spent in detention are a sufficient sentence.

Bemba is also appealing the conviction decision, arguing that his fair trial rights were abused during the trial. He argues that judges dismissed all evidence submitted by the defense that exonerated him and instead based its conviction on weak prosecution evidence.

At an appeal hearing last week, defense lawyer Kate Gibson said the 18-year sentence was disproportionate to the conviction, adding that it is “in fact so unreasonable as to constitute an abuse of the Trial Chamber’s discretion.”

However, the … Continue Reading

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A Former LRA Officer Disputes the LRA’s Goal was to Overthrow the Ugandan Government

A former long-serving member of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that after he escaped the group he concluded the LRA’s goal was not to overthrow the Ugandan government. He said he also appealed on FM radio to LRA members to leave the group.

Witness P-145 told the court on Wednesday about collecting and carrying away food looted during an LRA attack on the Lukodi camp for internally displaced people (IDP). He said he did not participate in the attack nor did he witness what happened during the attack.

Dominic Ongwen, a former LRA commander who is on trial at the ICC, has been charged with 13 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer Casts Doubt on Whether Witness Knew Ongwen

On Tuesday, a lawyer defending Dominic Ongwen at the International Criminal Court (ICC) cast doubt on whether a former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) saw or knew Ongwen, as the former fighter had testified a day earlier.

Thomas Obhof also cast doubt on what Witness P-250 knew about the LRA brigade he had testified he belonged to while he was with the rebel group. Witness P-250 insisted that he knew Ongwen, but he conceded there were details about the brigade he belonged to that he did not know.

Ongwen is on trial facing 70 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has been charged with attacking camps for internally displaced people (IDP), committing sex crimes, and conscripting child … Continue Reading

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Witness Testifies About Attacking the Pajule IDP Camp Where His Father, Sister Lived

A former fighter with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about being abducted by the LRA and later taking part in an attack on a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) where his father, sister, and other relatives lived.

Witness P-250* testified on Monday in the trial of a former LRA commander, Dominic Ongwen, which resumed after a 45-day break. The last hearing of 2017 in Ongwen’s trial was on November 30. The trial has been going on since December 2016, and Witness P-250 is the 54th prosecution witness to testify.

The witness told the court he took part in an October 2003 attack on the Pajule IDP camp where his father, sister, and other relatives resided. … Continue Reading

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Appeal Hearing Focuses on Bemba’s Mode of Liability

Hearings in the appeal of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have over the last two days dwelt on the interpretation of what constitutes a military commander’s responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates. Equally at the center of hearings was the level of knowledge a commander needs to have about subordinates’ crimes in order to bear criminal liability.

The hearing, which started on Tuesday, considered Bemba’s appeal against his conviction, as well as prosecution and defense appeals against the 18-year prison term handed to him in 2016. Bemba, who was commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel group, was found guilty of failing to prevent or punish his troops who committed murder, rape, and … Continue Reading

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At Appeal Hearing, Defense Lawyers Say Bemba Was Denied a Fair Trial

On Tuesday, January 9, lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba argued at an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was denied a fair trial and his exculpatory evidence was unjustifiably dismissed, leading to his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III convicted Bemba of crimes committed 15 years ago in the Central African Republic (CAR). At the hearing, defense lawyer Peter Haynes faulted trial chamber judges for allowing the prosecution to access privileged communication between Bemba and his lawyers and for receiving evidence from the prosecution without allowing Bemba to offer his side of the story.

Haynes said the prosecution made several ex parte … Continue Reading

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Vues de l’Ituri: Absence de réparation ou d’assistance pour les victimes de Nyankunde

Cet article a été préparé par notre partenaire Radio Canal Révélation, une station radio basée à Bunia, en République démocratique du Congo (RDC), dans le cadre d’un projet de radio interactive pour la justice et la paix qui favorise la mise en débat des questions touchant à la justice en RDC. Les vues de la population relayées dans cet article sont celles des personnes interviewées et ne représentent pas forcément les vues de tous les membres de la communauté ni celles des victimes.

Des centaines de victimes au nord-est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC) se disent délaissées et découragées faute d’’assistance dans la localité de Nyankunde, complètement détruite lors de l’attaque deseptembre 2002 qui a causé la mort de … Continue Reading

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Views from Ituri: Lack of Compensation or Assistance for the Victims of Nyankunde

This article was prepared by our partner Radio Canal Révélation, a radio station based in Bunia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as part of an interactive radio project on justice and peace which encourages a debate on issues related to justice in the DRC. The views conveyed in this article belong to the people interviewed and do not necessarily represent the views of all the community members, or those of the victims.

Hundreds of victims in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) say that they feel abandoned and discouraged because of the lack of assistance in the village of Nyankunde, which was completely destroyed in the attack of … Continue Reading

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Key Issues in Bemba’s Appeal Hearing Against ICC Conviction

Did former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia have an organizational policy to attack civilians? And did the nature and scope of the attacks warrant their classification as crimes against humanity? These are among the key issues that will be addressed during an oral hearing in Bemba’s appeal against conviction for crimes committed 15 years ago. The hearing is scheduled to begin on January 9 and will last up to five days.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III at the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Bemba – the former head of the MLC – of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in failing to punish or deter his troops who committed … Continue Reading

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Mass Burial Takes Place of Ixil Victims of the Guatemalan Armed Conflict

As the genocide trial continues to unfold before High Risk Court “B” in Guatemala, a mass burial of 172 Maya Ixil victims of the armed conflict took place in the village of Santa Avelina, San Juan Cotzal, Quiché, in the heart of the Maya Ixil region of Guatemala. Human rights lawyers have confirmed to International Justice Monitor that at least one of the survivors from Santa Avelina is a witness in the ongoing cases against Efraín Ríos Montt and Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez.

The victims were from Santa Avelina, one of the “model villages” created by the Guatemalan army during the internal armed conflict to control the population it suspected of working with the guerrillas. One survivor, José Ceto, told El Periódico … Continue Reading

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