International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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At Appeal Hearing, Defense Lawyers Say Bemba Was Denied a Fair Trial

On Tuesday, January 9, lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba argued at an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was denied a fair trial and his exculpatory evidence was unjustifiably dismissed, leading to his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III convicted Bemba of crimes committed 15 years ago in the Central African Republic (CAR). At the hearing, defense lawyer Peter Haynes faulted trial chamber judges for allowing the prosecution to access privileged communication between Bemba and his lawyers and for receiving evidence from the prosecution without allowing Bemba to offer his side of the story.

Haynes said the prosecution made several ex parte … Continue Reading

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Key Issues in Bemba’s Appeal Hearing Against ICC Conviction

Did former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia have an organizational policy to attack civilians? And did the nature and scope of the attacks warrant their classification as crimes against humanity? These are among the key issues that will be addressed during an oral hearing in Bemba’s appeal against conviction for crimes committed 15 years ago. The hearing is scheduled to begin on January 9 and will last up to five days.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III at the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Bemba – the former head of the MLC – of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in failing to punish or deter his troops who committed … Continue Reading

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Judges Decline to Suspend Reparations Process in Bemba Case

A defense appeal to suspend reparations proceedings in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese opposition leader who is serving an 18-year prison sentence, has been rejected by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges. The judges disagreed with the defense lawyers’ claim that it was premature to continue with the reparations process when the Appeals Chamber was considering Bemba’s appeal for acquittal.

In the May 5 ruling, trial chamber judges determined that the court’s founding law and rules of procedure allowed reparations proceedings to take place in parallel to a pending appeal. Bemba is appealing both his March 2016 conviction and the sentence handed down last June.

The prosecution and victims’ lawyers had asked judges to throw out the defense’s request, arguing that, … Continue Reading

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ICC Judges Hand Bemba €300,000 Fine, Defense Lawyers Get Suspended Sentences

Jean-Pierre Bemba has been handed the heaviest penalty among the five individuals sentenced today for tampering with witnesses at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Judges also issued suspended sentences for Bemba’s two former lawyers and also imposed monetary penalties on two of those convicted.

The former vice president of Congo was sentenced to one-year in prison and fined €300,000, which he has to pay within three months. His former lead defense counsel, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, was fined €30,000, also payable in three months, and handed a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years, suspended over three years. The two fines shall ultimately be transferred to the Trust Fund for Victims.

Judges ruled that the time Bemba’s four associates spent in pre-trial detention should be … Continue Reading

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