International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Sentencing in ICC’s First Witness Tampering Trial Due Tomorrow

Tomorrow, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver the sentences of five individuals convicted of tampering with defense witnesses who testified in the trial of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The five, who include Bemba, were convicted last October on various charges in the first trial under Article 70 of the court’s Rome Statute, which relates to offenses against the administration of justice. In the conviction decision, judges found that the five intentionally corruptly influenced 14 defense witnesses and presented their false testimonial evidence to the court.

Delivery of the decision on sentencing is scheduled for 11:00 local time in The Hague in open court. Judges ordered all the accused to be present in the courtroom. Bemba’s four associates have been on conditional release since October 2014, but he remains in jail on account of an 18-year sentence he is serving over war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Below is a summary of the convictions for each individual:

  1. Jean-Pierre Bemba, 54: The former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was convicted for corruptly influencing 14 witnesses and soliciting the giving of false testimony.
  2. Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, 45: The lead lawyer for Bemba until his arrest in November 2013 was convicted of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses, presenting their false testimony before court, and encouraging their false testimony. Kilolo is a Belgian citizen of Congolese descent.
  3. Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, 38: The former case manager on Bemba’s defense team was found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses, aiding in the giving of false testimony by two witnesses, and abetting the giving of false testimony by seven witnesses. Kabongo is a national of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  4. Narcisse Arido, 39: A national of the Central African Republic, Arido was on the list of Bemba’s defense witnesses but did not turn up in the courtroom when he was expected to testify. He was convicted for corruptly influencing four witnesses.
  5. Fidèle Babala Wandu, 61: A Congolese legislator and former chief of staff to Bemba while he was vice president was found guilty of corruptly influencing two witnesses.

In light of each individual’s conviction, the prosecution has suggested to judges that Bemba and Kilolo be sentenced to joint sentences of eight years imprisonment, Mangenda to seven years, Arido to five years, and Babala to three years. However, defense teams contend that all five already served the appropriate prison terms and sentences, when they spent 11 months in pre-trial detention.

Bemba and his associates are appealing their conviction, arguing that trial judges erred by relying on evidence that was obtained by means that violated the court’s founding law and internationally recognized human rights. That information purportedly included records obtained from money transfer service Western Union; call data records and intercepts collected by Dutch authorities; and call logs and intercepts collected from the ICC Detention Center.

The case of Bemba and his associates is the first such case tried by the ICC. There are other cases of corruptly influencing witnesses at the ICC, including those of Kenyans Walter Barasa, Paul Gicheru, and Philip Kipkoech Bett, for whom the court issued arrest warrants. There have also been allegations of witness interference in seven other cases that have reached trial at the court.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has published a two-page fact sheet on the case, available here.

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