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Bemba Names Peter Haynes His Interim Lead Lawyer

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have granted a request by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba for Peter Haynes to act as lead counsel in his ongoing war crimes trial. The English lawyer was until last month the co-counsel while Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, who is now faced with witness and evidence tampering charges, was lead counsel.

In a December 6, 2013 ruling, judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki, allowed Mr. Haynes to act as counsel for Mr. Bemba “until otherwise decided.”

In a hand-written note dated December 5, Mr. Bemba had requested the judges for more time to consider the composition of his defense team. However, he asked the judges to allow Mr. Haynes to continue representing him.

On November 23 and 24, Mr. Kilolo-Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, the defense case manager, were arrested along with a Congolese Member of Parliament and a defense witness in Mr. Bemba’s trial. They were accused of corruptly influencing witnesses and presenting false or forged evidence.

Mr. Bemba relieved Mr. Kilolo-Musamba and Mr. Kabongo of their mandates after the arrest. At a November 28 status conference, he said he was unable to confirm the composition of his defense team since he was at the time barred from talking to Mr. Kilolo-Musamba. Restrictions on interactions between the two were lifted on December 4.

At his initial appearance before the court on witness and evidence tampering charges, Mr. Kilolo-Musamba said he was surprised at the warrant issued for his arrest, stating that summons from the prosecutor would have been sufficient for him to appear and answer to the allegations. He also stated that the allegations ought to have been dealt with under the main trial of Mr. Bemba.

The new case, in which Mr. Bemba is a co-accused, is expected to delay his main trial over the alleged misconduct of his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops during 2002 and 2003 in the Central African Republic. Mr. Bemba has been in ICC detention since July 2008.