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Defense Lawyer on Trial at ICC for Witness Tampering to Make Unsworn Statement

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the former lead defense lawyer for Jean-Pierre Bemba, will make an unsworn oral statement before judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the hearing of closing statements in the witness tampering trial against him, Bemba and three others. Fidèle Babala Wandu, a Member of Parliament and former aid to Bemba when he was vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is also expected to make an unsworn oral statement in hearings scheduled to commence on May 31, 2016.

In a May 12 ruling granting their requests to make unsworn statements, Judge Bertram Schmitt said he would not “circumscribe” what Kilolo and Babala can say in their one hour long statements. However, he rejected a request by the prosecution to respond or present further evidence in light of the unsworn statements.

“Noting the defense’s right to present closing statements last and that the evidence presentation in this case is closed, the Prosecution will also not be permitted to reply or present further evidence in response to unsworn statements,” ruled Judge Schmitt. Prosecutors had requested judges for leave to reply or introduce rebuttal evidence should the unsworn statements refer to evidence or merits of the case.

Article 67 of the Rome Statute gives an accused the right to make an unsworn statement in his or her defense. Unsworn statements have been made in other trials at the ICC. For instance, Germain Katanga and Thomas Lubanga made unsworn statements during closing statements of their trials in May 2011 and May 2014 respectively. In June 2013, Bemba was granted leave to make an unsworn statement during closing statements in his main trial. However, he ultimately did not make a statement. Meanwhile, last September, Bosco Ntaganda made an unsworn statement at the opening of his trial.

Kilolo, Bemba, Babala together with Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo and Narcisse Arido are accused of allegedly bribing and coaching witnesses to provide false testimony in Bemba’s trial over war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kabongo was the case manager for Bemba while Arido was on the defense witness list. The trial opened last September and saw the prosecution call less than ten witnesses, who testified mostly in closed session.  The defense case for the five accused opened last March.