International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

The Impact of the Appeals Chamber Decision in Bemba: Impunity for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes?

Susana SáCouto is the Director of the War Crimes Research Office at the American University Washington College of Law.  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.  

Two weeks ago, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) reversed – in a divided opinion – the conviction of former military commander Jean-Pierre Bemba for the crimes against humanity of rape and murder and the war crimes of rape, murder, and pillaging committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003.  The decision is clearly a disappointment for the victims of the crimes committed by Bemba’s troops, who have been waiting for … Continue Reading

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Bemba in Belgium After Release From ICC Detention

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese opposition leader freed from International Criminal Court (ICC) detention last Friday, was released to Belgium, whose government did not object to his presence in the country.

The 55-year-old former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has a home in Belgium, where his wife and children live. He was initially arrested from the country back in May 2008 before being handed over to the ICC in July of that year.

Last Tuesday, Trial Chamber VII judges ordered Bemba’s release pending the determination of his new sentence in a case where he was convicted for tampering with witnesses. The decision followed his June 8, 2018 acquittal following an appeal in his main trial for war crimes and crimes … Continue Reading

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Bemba Set For Release From ICC Detention

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have ordered the release from detention of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was last Friday acquitted of war crimes.

In a decision issued Tuesday afternoon, judges considered it “disproportionate” to further detain Bemba “merely to ensure his appearance for sentencing” in a separate case over his conviction for witness tampering. He will be released as soon as the court’s Registry makes the necessary arrangements.

The 55-year-old former militia commander and opposition leader, who has been in the court’s detention for nearly 10 years, will be released to Belgium, where he will join his wife and five children. As part of his conditions for release, Bemba is expected to immediately surrender to authorities if … Continue Reading

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Bemba Acquitted of War Crimes at the ICC

The Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has overturned Jean-Pierre Bemba’s conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In a ruling issued Friday afternoon, a majority of appeals judges found that the trial chamber erred in finding that Bemba did not take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) by his subordinate troops 16 years ago.

They also ruled that trial judges erroneously convicted Bemba for specific criminal acts that were outside the scope of the charges confirmed against him by the pre-trial chamber.

Judges Sanji Mmasenono Monageng and Piotr Hofmański disagreed with the majority’s decision to acquit Bemba. Other judges on the Appeals Chamber were Christine Van den Wyngaert (presiding), Chile Eboe-Osuji, … Continue Reading

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Bemba Appeal Verdict Due Tomorrow

Tomorrow, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will announce the verdict in appeals against Jean Pierre Bemba’s conviction and the 18-year prison sentence handed to him two years ago.

The former Congolese vice president, who has been in the court’s custody since July 2008, has asked the Appeals Chamber to quash his conviction or to lower the sentence and release him even if the conviction is upheld. The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has asked judges to raise the prison sentence to 25 years.

Bemba was unanimously convicted over two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape); and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). The crimes were committed during an armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) … Continue Reading

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Bemba Appeal Judgment: New Fact Sheet

On Friday, June 8, at 16.00 hrs local time, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court in The Hague will deliver its judgment on the appeal of Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the trial chamber in March, 2016.

The Open Society Justice Initiative has produced a fact sheet summarizing the issues involved, which can be downloaded as a pdf  from the Open Society Foundations website by clicking here.

 

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Two Judges Decline to Recuse Themselves From Bemba Reparations Proceedings

Two International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have declined to recuse themselves from the panel that will determine the reparations that former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba will pay to victims of his crimes.

In a memo to the court’s presidency, judges Geoffrey Henderson and Chang-ho Chung deny being biased against Bemba and cite various inaccuracies in his February 28, 2018 request for the disqualification of Trial Chamber III judges. Besides Henderson and Chung, the recusal motion also applied to Judge Joyce Aluoch, but her tenure as a judge at the ICC ended in March.

The two judges, whose redacted memo was published on May 24, said they had carefully reflected on the decisions taken throughout the course of the reparations proceedings and … Continue Reading

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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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