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New Sentences in ICC Witness Corruption Trial to be Issued Next Week

The new sentences for three individuals convicted of witness corruption at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will delivered on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 15:00h local time in The Hague. Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former head of his defense Aimé Kilolo Musamba, and former case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, were convicted in 2016 for corruptly influencing witnesses and giving false testimony.

Last March, the Appeals Chamber quashed their earlier sentences after determining that the Trial Chamber had made errors in reaching the sentences. Earlier in March 2017, judges had handed Bemba a one-year prison term and a fine of €300,000, while Kilolo received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence plus a fine of €30,000. Mangenda was sentenced to 11 months in jail, suspended for two years.

In the appeals ruling, judges confirmed the sentences for Bemba’s aide Fidèle Babala Wandu and former defense witness Narcisse Arido (six months and 11 months, respectively). At sentencing last year, the trial chamber considered their sentences served due to the time they had spent in pre-trial detention.

In determining that it was necessary to issue new sentences for Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda, the Appeals Chamber cited Article 83(2)(a) and Article 83(2)(b) of the Rome Statute. These provisions state that if the Appeals Chamber finds factual, legal, or procedural errors materially affecting the sentence, or unfairness affecting its reliability, it may reverse or amend the sentence, or order a new trial before a different trial chamber. They also cited Article 83(3), which stipulates that if the Appeals Chamber finds the sentence to be disproportionate to the crime, it may change the sentence.

Appeals judges determined that the Trial Chamber had determined the gravity of the offenses using “an irrelevant consideration” and “improperly considered that the form of responsibility for the convictions under article 70(1)(a) of the Statute warranted per se a reduction of the corresponding sentences.”

Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber found that trial judges erred when, in assessing the gravity of the offenses, they gave “some weight” to the consideration that the false testimony of witnesses did not relate to merits of the main case against Bemba. The Appeal Chamber said the court’s truth-seeking functions are not necessarily less damaged by false testimony on matters informing the credibility of witnesses than they are by false testimony on matters concerning the merits of a case.

Additionally, appeals judges agreed with the prosecution that the Trial Chamber erred in giving a lower sentence for convictions against Bemba and Kilolo for inducing or soliciting the commission of offenses, compared to offenses they committed as co-perpetrators, exclusively on the basis of the different mode of liability.

Finally, the Trial Chamber was found to have acted beyond its legal powers by suspending the remaining terms of imprisonment imposed on Mangenda and Kilolo.

Judges may impose on the trio a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. The convicted individuals have asked judges to hand them non-custodial sentences.

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