International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Will Guatemala Still Prosecute Suspected War Criminals Under New Attorney General?

International Justice Monitor followed the process for selecting Guatemala’s new attorney general because of its potential to have tremendous implications for grave crimes trials and the rule of law in Guatemala. This is the ninth and final post in the series.

On May 3, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales announced his selection of María Consuelo Porras to serve as attorney general, succeeding Thelma Aldana. Porras took office on May 16. Morales made the appointment from a list of six finalists put forward by a Nominating Commission whose membership was at least partially determined through political manipulation and whose procedures faced criticism for such things as a lack of transparency in applying decision-making criteria and a failure to vet the candidates’ finances. Morales’s decision also … Continue Reading

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Defense Request Concerning Prosecution Witnesses Rejected

In a decision dated July 9, 2018, Cuno Tarfusser, the single judge in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, ruled on a request submitted by the former president’s defense in June.

Pending the resumption of hearings in the trial of Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé, the proceedings continue behind the scenes. Thus, on July 9, the single judge rejected a request made in June 2018 by the defense of the former head of state.

The request of Emmanuel Altit, Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer, related to witnesses on the list of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The French lawyer had raised issues related to these people who were called to testify.

In his submission, Altit wrote about the case of 12 witness … Continue Reading

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Judges Hear Arguments on New Sentences for Bemba and His Former Lawyers

On Wednesday, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges heard oral submissions from the prosecution and defense regarding the new sentences that should be handed to Congo’s former vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and his two former lawyers. The three Congolese nationals were found guilty in 2016 of tampering with witnesses who testified for Bemba in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Whereas the prosecution asked judges to hand the three individuals the maximum penalty of five years plus “a substantial fine,” defense lawyers pleaded for non-custodial sentences. They claimed the time the individuals spent in pre-trial detention was sufficient deterrence and commensurate with the gravity of the offenses that they were convicted of.

Prosecution lawyer Kweku Vanderpuye said the sentences handed … Continue Reading

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Odongo: We Have Not Taken a Definitive Position on Filing a ‘No Case to Answer’ Motion

Two members of Dominic Ongwen’s defense team – his lead lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo and Thomas Obhof – sat down with the International Justice Monitor on March 28 to talk about the defense case. This was about two weeks before the prosecution, on April 13, formally closed their case against Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. In this fourth installment of a four-part interview Odongo and Obhof discuss ways they view Ongwen’s fair trial rights were not respected.

International Justice Monitor (IJM): …[G]oing back to the issue of fair trial rights, there are several filings you’ve made to raise this issue, but at the same, time it seems they’re being raised now…they’re being raised in the last few months with the … Continue Reading

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Odongo: Charges against Ongwen are Really Charges against the LRA

Two members of Dominic Ongwen’s defense team – his lead lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo and Thomas Obhof – sat down with the International Justice Monitor on March 28 to talk about the defense case. This was about two weeks before the prosecution, on April 13, formally closed their case against Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. In this third installment of a four-part interview Odongo and Obhof talk about LRA leader Joseph Kony’s control over the group and how they intend to defend Ongwen against the charges of sexual and gender-based crimes he faces. 

International Justice Monitor (IJM): In fact, duress was one of the notices you gave in terms of the defense points, issues that you are going to raise, … Continue Reading

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Odongo: Ongwen Needs to be Handled ‘with Tender Care’

Two members of Dominic Ongwen’s defense team – his lead lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo and Thomas Obhof – sat down with the International Justice Monitor on March 28 to talk about the defense case. This was about two weeks before the prosecution, on April 13, formally closed their case against Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. In this second installment of a four-part interview Odongo and Obhof talk about the day Ongwen disrupted court proceedings in March and the alibi defense they intend to present. The first part is available here. 

International Justice Monitor (IJM): On Monday, March 19, Dominic Ongwen disrupted the court hearing and since then several times your team has raised the issue of his health. How is … Continue Reading

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Odongo: Ongwen’s Defense Has Suffered Several Constraints

Two members of Dominic Ongwen’s defense team – his lead lawyer Krispus Ayena Odongo and Thomas Obhof – sat down with the International Justice Monitor on March 28 to talk about the defense case. This was about two weeks before the prosecution, on April 13, formally closed their case against Ongwen at the International Criminal Court. In this first installment of a four-part interview, Odongo and Obhof talk about the challenges the defense has faced in preparing their case.

International Justice Monitor (IJM): How is the trial going so far for you?

Krispus Ayena Odongo: Well, we have suffered quite a number of constraints, especially in regard to resources. When we talk about equality of arms that is not exactly what is … Continue Reading

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Bemba and His Former Lawyers Ask ICC Judges Not to Send Them Back to Jail

Congo’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and his two former lawyers, with whom he was convicted for witnesses tampering at the International Criminal Court (ICC), have asked judges not to send them back to jail. The trio want judges to maintain the earlier sentences handed to them back in March 2017, before the court’s Appeals Chamber directed that new sentences be issued.

In a June 1 submission, Bemba’s lawyers asked that he be given a custodial sentence of 12 months, which he would not actually serve because he has already spent a longer period in pre-trial detention, plus “a substantial fine.” Bemba was initially handed a one-year prison term and a fine of €300,000.

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, who was Bemba’s lead lawyer, … Continue Reading

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Gbagbo’s Defense Motion Rejected

In a decision dated June 26, 2018, Cuno Tarfusser, the single judge in the Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé  trial, rejected a request from Emmanuel Altit, Gbagbo’s lead defense lawyer. The request for rejection, which was made by the prosecution, related to the mid-trial brief.

Emmanuel Altit’s request has been once more rejected by the judges.  Judge Cuno Tarfusser, the single judge in Laurent Gbagbo’s joint trial, rejected an application by Gbagbo’s lead lawyer in a decision dated June 26, 2018.

This request was made by the French lawyer on June 13, 2018. According to his submissions, he wanted to appeal the decision to make available to the defense teams a translated and corrected version of the mid-trial brief.

The judge indicated that … Continue Reading

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The Bemba Appeals Judgment: The ICC Facing the Tower of Babel?

Jacques B. Mbokani has a Ph.D. in law from the Université catholique de Louvain and is a professor at the University of Goma and at the ULPGL/Goma. He is also an external consultant to OSISA-DRC and former ICC (OTP) intern. He has previously written about command responsibility in the Bemba case.

The original version of this article appeared in French here. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The court has decided! On June 8, 2018, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges. As we know, in 2016, Bemba was convicted (unanimously) … Continue Reading

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