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 analyst found that there was a total of 897 contacts between Kilolo and 14 witnesses who testified for Bemba in his was crimes trial. “I’ve concluded that 487 of those contacts were of 10 seconds or longer in duration. And of those, 110 occurred during a period where contacts with the witnesses were not permitted in accordance with the Victims and Witnesses Unit protocol,” stated the analyst.
Furthermore, he said, there were eight contacts via SMS between Kilolo and defense witnesses at a time when such contacts were not permitted.
The telecoms operators that provided data records to prosecution investigators include KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile (The Netherlands); Orange (Cameroon); Telia Sonera (Sweden); Free Mobile (France); Belgacom, BASE Company, and Movistar (Belgium); and VodaCom (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been on trial at the ICC since November 2010 for the 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.
Last month, Bemba went on trial for corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony. On trial alongside him are Kilolo, former defense case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, former defense witness Narcisse Arido, and Congolese legislator Fidèle Babala Wandu.
According to the prosecution, the charges of evidence tampering relate to the testimony of 14 witnesses, but a criminal plan by the five accused involved many more witnesses who testified for Bemba.
Witness P-433 reviewed various types of telecommunications evidence in the possession of the OTP and produced a report that was tendered into evidence. The review included call logs generated from the ICC detention center, which contained records of communication between detainees at the center and other parties. There was also evidence forensically extracted from communication devices including mobile handsets, tablets, and computers confiscated from the suspects.
The prosecution is also in possession of financial records from international money transfer companies such as Western Union and Express Union, which contain telephone numbers of various individuals.
The prosecution has also called Rene Pluijmers, who testified on October 9 as an expert witness on how the interception of communications is conducted. Witness P-261, one of the defense witnesses who allegedly provided false testimony in Bemba’s main trial, has also testified for the prosecution in the new trial. The prosecution is expected to call no more than 11 witnesses.