International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Bemba Appeal Verdict to be Delivered on June 8

On June 8, 2018, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver the verdict in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s appeal against conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, appealed both his conviction and the 18-year prison sentence. Prosecutors also appealed the sentence, which they asked judges to raise to 25 years.

According to an order from the chamber handling the appeal, the judgement shall be delivered in open court at 16:00 local time in The Hague. The chamber is composed of judges Christine Van den Wyngaert (Presiding), Chile Eboe-Osuji, Sanji Monageng, Howard Morrison, and Piotr Hofmański.

In March 2016, Bemba was convicted of murder, rape, and pillaging stemming from his failure … Continue Reading

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Witness Tampering: Prosecutor Proposes Maximum Sentence for Bemba and His Former Lawyers

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has proposed a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment for Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and his two former lawyers, who are due to receive fresh sentences for witness tampering. The prosecutor says she does not oppose the imposition of a monetary fine on the trio, who have up to the end of this month to make their own sentencing submissions.

Bemba and his former lawyers, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, will receive new sentences following the March 2018 reversal of their earlier sentences by an Appeals Chamber at the ICC.

In the initial sentencing in March 2017, Bemba was handed a one-year prison term and a fine of €300,000; Kilolo received a two-and-a-half … Continue Reading

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Bemba Denied Access to Confidential ICC Records on His Financial Status

Jean-Pierre Bemba has been denied access to confidential records on his assets and financial status, which are in the possession of the Registry at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Lawyers for the former Congolese vice president, who is due to receive a fresh sentence for witness tampering, had sought the confidential records to inform their sentencing submissions.

In a May 7 decision, Single Judge Geoffrey Henderson of Trial Chamber III ruled that the circumstances justifying the confidential classification of the filings Bemba sought had not changed. “There being no alternative procedure available at this stage, the ex parte classification thus remains necessary,” he stated.

Citing jurisprudence at the court regarding reclassification of confidential documents, Judge Henderson stated that “complete secrecy” is justified … Continue Reading

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Why Bemba and His Lawyers Will Receive New Sentences for Witness Tampering

Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba and his two former lawyers with whom he was convicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will receive new sentences for tampering with witnesses. The two other individuals, who were also convicted in the same trial, had their sentences confirmed by appeals judges.

According to the Appeals Chamber, it became necessary to issue new sentences for Bemba and his former lawyers, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, once it was established that the trial chamber committed errors in the criteria used to determine their initial sentences.

In March 2017, judges handed down sentences to the trio, who had been convicted in October 2016 for corruptly influencing 14 witnesses and presenting their false evidence before the court. Bemba … Continue Reading

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Bemba Seeks Access to Confidential ICC Records on His Financial Status

Jean-Pierre Bemba is seeking to gain access to all confidential records related to his assets and financial status that are in the possession of the Registry of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The records were filed in the Congolese opposition leader’s main trial in which he was convicted and handed an 18-year prison term. However, Melinda Taylor, who represents him in a separate trial over witness tampering, says these records are needed in preparing sentencing submissions.

In October 2016, Bemba was found guilty of giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses. Trial judges handed him a one-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine. Last month appeals judges upheld the conviction but reversed the sentence imposed on him and two of his … Continue Reading

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Bemba Wants Judges Disqualified From Deciding How Much He Should Pay Victims

Jean-Pierre Bemba is seeking the disqualification of International Criminal Court (ICC) judges from the panel that will determine the reparations he will pay to victims of his crimes. The former Congolese vice president, who is serving an 18-year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), accuses the judges of bias.

According to defense lawyer Peter Haynes, given the pattern of rulings issued by Trial Chamber III in the conduct of reparations proceedings, “a reasonable perception of a predisposition” against Bemba arises. Haynes has requested that a plenary of judges considers Bemba’s request to disqualify the judges pursuant to article 41(2) of the court’s statute.

At the time of Bemba’s original request for recusal, Trial … Continue Reading

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Appeals Judges Affirm Witness Tampering Convictions against Bemba and His Lawyers

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have upheld the witness tampering convictions against Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four associates. However, they overturned [pdf] Bemba and his lawyers’ conviction over presentation of false oral testimony in the former Congolese vice president’s main trial over war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The judges confirmed all the other convictions of giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses against Bemba and his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean Jacques Mangenda. They equally upheld the convictions for corruptly influencing witnesses against Bemba’s aides Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido.

In another ruling, appeals judges reversed [pdf] the sentences imposed on Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda and directed the trial chamber that sentenced them to determine new sentences. … Continue Reading

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Appeals Judgments on ICC’s First Witness Tampering Convictions Set for Tomorrow

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver judgements in the Jean-Pierre Bemba et al. appeals against the verdict and sentence in the court’s first witness tampering trial. The rulings will be delivered in open court on Thursday, March 8, at 10:00 local time in The Hague. 

Bemba, his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, together with aides Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, were found guilty in October 2016 of offenses against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. In March 2017, they were handed varying sentences and fines. Bemba received a one-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine, while Kilolo got a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence plus a fine of … Continue Reading

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Bemba Pleads With ICC Appeals Judges for Reduced Sentence

Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has pleaded with appeals judges to lower his sentence, arguing that the nearly ten years he has spent in detention are a sufficient sentence.

Bemba is also appealing the conviction decision, arguing that his fair trial rights were abused during the trial. He argues that judges dismissed all evidence submitted by the defense that exonerated him and instead based its conviction on weak prosecution evidence.

At an appeal hearing last week, defense lawyer Kate Gibson said the 18-year sentence was disproportionate to the conviction, adding that it is “in fact so unreasonable as to constitute an abuse of the Trial Chamber’s discretion.”

However, the … Continue Reading

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Appeal Hearing Focuses on Bemba’s Mode of Liability

Hearings in the appeal of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have over the last two days dwelt on the interpretation of what constitutes a military commander’s responsibility for crimes committed by their subordinates. Equally at the center of hearings was the level of knowledge a commander needs to have about subordinates’ crimes in order to bear criminal liability.

The hearing, which started on Tuesday, considered Bemba’s appeal against his conviction, as well as prosecution and defense appeals against the 18-year prison term handed to him in 2016. Bemba, who was commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel group, was found guilty of failing to prevent or punish his troops who committed murder, rape, and … Continue Reading

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