Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo
at the International Criminal Court
Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice president in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was acquitted of war crimes and crimes against humanity charges before the International Criminal Court. Those charges related to a conflict in the Central African Republic. This page follows Bemba’s main trial and subsequent acquittal as well as the arrest and second trial of Bemba and members of his defense team for witness interference.
Name: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo
Arrested: May 24, 2008
Handed over to the International Criminal Court: July 3, 2008
Charges: Three war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and two crimes against humanity (murder and rape) related to the conflict in the Central African Republic between October 26, 2002 and March 15, 2003.
Trial start date: November 22, 2010
Trial end date: November 7, 2014
Judgment: March 21, 2016; convicted of all charges.
Sentencing: June 21, 2016; sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Appeal: June 8, 2018; acquitted of all charges and subsequently released from detention.
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a politician, businessman, and former militia leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), began on November 22, 2010 at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bemba is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) allegedly committed during the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). This is the ICC’s first case involving the conflict in CAR, and the third trial ever held at the ICC.
The following overview offers a look at how the case came about, and what has happened since Jean-Pierre Bemba’s arrest in May 2008.
How did the ICC become involved in the CAR?
The Central African Republic became a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court by signing the treaty on December 7, 1999 and ratifying it on October 3, 2001. The ICC can have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide that are committed on the territory of a state party or by the citizens of a state party. But the ICC only has jurisdiction if the national government is unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute these crimes. It also can only have jurisdiction over crimes committed after July 1, 2002 – the date the Rome Statute took effect.
On December 21, 2004, the CAR government asked the ICC to investigate atrocities committed during 2002 and 2003. In April 2006, CAR’s highest court ruled that the national justice system was incapable of carrying out proceedings to address crimes under the Rome Statute. On the basis of the referral, the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC opened an investigation. A later defense challenge to the admissibility of the case (meaning whether the ICC could try the case at all – explained below) was eventually rejected by the judges.
How did the ICC prosecutor investigate and arrest Bemba?
The prosecutor did not open a full investigation immediately, but kept the CAR conflict “under analysis” to determine whether he thought the ICC had jurisdiction and whether the alleged crimes were serious enough to open a full investigation. Various civil society organizations conducted their own investigations of the violence of 2002-2003, catalogued abuses, and encouraged the prosecutor to act. In September 2006, the CAR government wrote to the prosecutor to request information on his preliminary analysis. Two months later, a panel of pre-trial judges asked the prosecutor to inform it and the CAR government of his inquiry’s status. In May 2007, the prosecutor opened a full investigation.
On May 23, 2008, the Pre-Trial Chamber, after considering a request from the prosecutor, issued an arrest warrant for Jean-Pierre Bemba. He was charged with five counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity. The Chamber issued the warrant under seal. It was unsealed the next day, when Belgian authorities arrested Bemba near Brussels. A Belgian court ruled on July 1, 2008 that Bemba should be sent to the ICC, and this order was carried out two days later.
When did Bemba arrive at the ICC?
Bemba made an initial appearance before the three judges of Pre-Trial Chamber III on July 4, 2008. The Chamber initially scheduled a hearing on the confirmation of charges for November 2008, but this was delayed until December 2008 “in order to enable the Defense to properly exercise its rights, in particular with regard to adequately preparing for the hearing”. The hearing was delayed one more time, and took place from January 12-15, 2009.
At a confirmation of charges hearing, the judges examine whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. The prosecutor does not have to prove the case, but does have to show that there are “substantial grounds” to believe that the accused person committed the alleged crimes.
At the confirmation of charges hearing in January 2009, the judges heard arguments from the prosecution, defense, and legal representatives of 54 victims.
In March 2009, the pre-trial judges asked the prosecutor to amend the charges to include a different mode of criminal responsibility. The prosecutor had sought to accuse Bemba of directly committing crimes. The judges were now asking him to consider re-characterizing the charges as “command responsibility.” Command responsibility means that someone in effective control of an organization can be found guilty of crimes committed by subordinates if he or she orders the crimes to be committed, or if he or she fails to prevent or punish such crimes. In other words, command responsibility means that leaders who have effective control of their troops can be held legally responsible for crimes committed by those troops.
In June, after considering arguments and submissions made during the hearings on confirmation of the charges, Pre-Trial Chamber III decided that the prosecutor had enough evidence to justify a trial on some, but not all of the charges. The judges approved three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging), and two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape). However, they ruled that the prosecutor failed to provide enough evidence to proceed with a charge of torture as a crime against humanity, and with two counts of war crimes (torture and outrage on personal dignity). With this ruling, the case transferred to a trial chamber responsible for hearing evidence on the five remaining criminal counts in the case.
Why was the start of the trial was delayed?
In November 2009, the three judges of Trial Chamber III announced that Bemba’s trial would begin on April 27, 2010. But on March 8, 2010 the chamber announced that the trial would be delayed until July 5, 2010. The reason for the delay, the judges said, was the need to fully consider a defense application that filed in February (see below for information on the defense challenge to admissibility of the case). The judges decided on the defense application on June 24, 2010, but the next day they announced a further nine day delay for administrative reasons, including a likely change in the composition of the bench of judges itself. The trial was now scheduled to begin on July 14, 2010. However, on June 28, 2010, the defense filed a notice of appeal against the trial chamber’s decision on Bemba’s admissibility challenge. On October 19, 2010, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the trial chamber’s decision on Bemba’s admissibility challenge, paving the way for the trial to commence. On October 21, 2010, the trial chamber held a status conference at which it confirmed that Bemba’s trial would commence on November 22, 2010.
Why Bemba wasn’t set free before the start of the trial?
Shortly following Bemba’s transfer to the ICC in 2008, his defense team filed an application for him to be released from detention until the start of the trial. A Single Judge hearing such matters on behalf of Pre-Trial Chamber II rejected Bemba’s application in August of 2008. Under the Rome Statute, the pre-trial chamber is required to reconsider interim release of an accused person every six months. Single Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova of the pre-trial chamber rejected renewed applications for Bemba’s interim release in December 2008 and April 2009.
However, in a decision on August 14, 2009, Judge Trendafilova granted Bemba interim release. She ruled that circumstances had changed, and Bemba’s continued detention was no longer necessary before the start of trial in order to ensure his appearance at trial, ensure that he would not disrupt the investigation, or prevent him from continuing or committing crimes related to the case. The decision took note of Bemba’s full cooperation with the court, including during a previous 24-hour release so that he could attend his father’s funeral.
The prosecution quickly appealed the decision. The Appeals Chamber froze the pre-trial chamber’s decision until it could issue a final decision. Then on December 2, 2009, the Appeals Chamber overruled the pre-trial chamber’s decision. It found that the pre-trial chamber made errors in assessing the factors determining the risk that Bemba would flee, disrupt the investigation, or commit crimes related to those charged. Further, it said that the pre-trial chamber should have identified any specific conditions (for example, observation) required for Bemba’s release, and a specific state willing to take him. The Appeals Chamber’s ruling on the matter was final, thus, Bemba has remained in custody throughout the duration of his trial.
Who is paying for Bemba’s defense?
If a suspect or an accused person at the ICC is unable to pay for his or her legal defense, the ICC will pay for it. Three days after Bemba’s arrest in Brussels, the pre-trial chamber issued a request to the government of Portugal for information on Bemba’s property and assets, and a decision on freezing and seizing these assets to secure payment for his defense. In August 2008, the court’s chief administrator, the Registrar, issued a provisional decision on Bemba’s ability to pay. She found that he was not indigent (unable to pay), and so not eligible to receive any financial assistance for his defense from the court. The pre-trial chamber then ordered the Registrar to work with Portuguese officials to establish a monthly payment from Bemba’s frozen bank account to pay defense costs and support his family. The Registry has had difficulties in securing adequate payments from Bemba’s assets. As it has worked with governments to trace and freeze further assets, Bemba’s defense bills have climbed. In October 2009, Trial Chamber III ordered the Registry to indirectly pay for Bemba’s defense until repayment from Bemba to the court can be secured.
In July 2016, Peter Haynes, who heads Bemba’s defense in the main case, said a “substantial amount” of the advanced fees had been recovered after Bemba “assisted the Registry in the realization of some of his assets.” According to Haynes, the monthly sum advanced had remained consistent throughout the trial, sentencing, and appeal phases to-date, except for a voluntary reduction in staffing levels by the defense when arguments in the trial phase ended.
However, in August 2016, Bemba reported difficulties in paying lawyers representing him in the witness tampering case due to a refusal by the Registry to advance him sufficient resources to maintain his legal team. According to defense lawyer Melinda Taylor, with effect from July 1, 2016, legal aid had been cut off completely in that trial following the end of the presentation of evidence, and the defense had reached a point where “it has absolutely no funding.” Judges ordered the Registry to advance legal aid to Bemba until the court issued a final decision on his financial status.
Meanwhile, the prosecution requested that the Registry discloses the amount of money the court had spent on Bemba’s main trial, and specifically on the 14 witnesses whose evidence Bemba and his associates allegedly tampered with. According to Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, this information was material to its submissions on sentencing and would “assist the Chamber to assess the actual and potential pecuniary damage to the court” arising from Bemba’s conduct. The request was denied.
What was the defense challenge to admissibility of the case?
On February 25, 2010, Bemba’s defense team submitted an application to the judges of Trial Chamber III arguing that the case should not be heard at the ICC at all. His attorneys listed three reasons:
- They argued that CAR courts were capable of conducting the investigation and prosecution. Under the Rome Statute, the ICC is a court of last resort, and does not have jurisdiction when states are willing and able to conduct genuine legal proceedings.
- The defense argued that the crimes alleged in the charges were not of sufficient “gravity” to trigger ICC jurisdiction, as required by the Rome Statute in Article 17(1)(d). The Statute makes this requirement to ensure that the ICC focuses its limited resources on situations and cases around the world where the worst crimes are committed. But the Statute does not define “gravity”, and ICC judges have to interpret it.
- The defense argued that their client had suffered from abuses of the judicial process. It claimed that the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence on time, that the prosecution had misused the judicial process for political purposes, and that Bemba’s transfer to the ICC had been unlawful. Because these circumstances meant that he could not receive a fair trial, they said, Bemba’s case should be dismissed.
On June 24, 2010, Trial Chamber III issued a 102-page decision on the matter. After considering defense and prosecution arguments, as well as submissions from legal representatives of victims and the CAR government, the judges rejected the defense challenge on all three grounds.
- The judges ruled that CAR has a “domestic inability to conduct this trial”.
- The Trial Chamber noted that under the Rome Statute, the Pre-Trial Chamber is responsible for determining whether the prosecution has enough evidence to proceed with a full trial. As part of this process, the Pre-Trial Chamber had to consider the question of “gravity”. In the case of Bemba, the Pre-Trial Chamber did confirm the charges, meaning that it found that the alleged crimes did meet the Rome Statute’s gravity requirement. The judges noted that Bemba’s defense team did not appeal this decision.
- The judges determined that the defense complaint about abuse of process “is without foundation”. They found only one instance in which the prosecution had been very late in notifying the defense of a piece of evidence, but also found that this instance did not result in “material prejudice” to Bemba. Further, the Trial Chamber stated that the defense failed to provide any evidence to support its accusations that the prosecution was acting for political reasons in seeking charges against Bemba. Instead, the judges found, the defense offered mere speculation and unfounded assertions. And finally, the judges found that there were no irregularities in Belgium’s surrender of Bemba to the ICC.
On June 28, 2010, Bemba’s defense lawyers filed a notice of appeal against the trial chamber’s decision, and on July 26, 2010, they filed documents in support of their appeal, raising four grounds.
- That the Trial Chamber erred in its decision that the ruling of a Senior Investigating Judge of Bangui, CAR of September 16, 2004 not to prosecute the Accused were not final.
- That the Trial Chamber erred in its decision to dismiss Bemba’s application to hear the evidence of an independent expert in the law of the CAR.
- That the Trial Chamber erred in its decision that the CAR did not have the capacity to conduct a trial of this kind.
- That the Trial Chamber erred in its finding that Bemba’s recent submissions for appeal before the courts in CAR amounted to “an abuse of this court’s [ICC] process.”
On October 19, 2010, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC issued its decision, which it dismissed all four grounds of Bemba’s appeal and upheld the earlier decision of the trial chamber, thus paving the way for Bemba’s trial to begin.
On October 21, 2010, Trial Chamber III held a status conference during which it confirmed that Bemba’s trial will officially commence on November 22, 2010.
Bemba’s judgment and subsequent acquittal
On March 21, 2016 judges unanimously convicted Bemba of all charges. It is the first time that an ICC defendant is convicted under the theory of command responsibility. The judges found that he knew that his MLC militia troops were committing or about to commit crimes, but he failed to take reasonable measures to deter or to punish these crimes. Bemba is also the first person to be convicted of sexual and gender based crimes at the ICC.
On June 21, 2016 Trial Chamber VII sentenced Bemba to 18 years in prison. The defense argued that the eight years Bemba has spent in ICC detention since his arrest is sufficient time served. The prosecution argued that the gravity of the crime warranted a 25 year sentence. The 18-year sentence had been the longest to-date handed down by ICC judges, and both the prosecution and defense appealed the sentencing decision.
On June 8, 2018 the Appeals Chamber of the ICC, in a three to two decision, acquitted Bemba of all charges. The majority of judges found “serious errors” in trial judges’ assessment that Bemba did not take necessary measures to prevent, repress, or punish the commission of crimes by his subordinates. They said the trial chamber “failed to appreciate the limitations” Bemba faced in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as a “remote commander” to troops stationed in a foreign country.
Following his acquittal, Bemba was released to Belgium on June 15, 2018. At the time, Bemba was still waiting to be re-sentenced for his conviction based on witness tampering. However, judges hearing that case determined that it would be disproportionate to further detain Bemba merely for his appearance for sentencing. They found there was no risk of Bemba obstructing or endangering investigations because his conviction for offenses relating to witness tampering are final and only his sentence is to be re-determined.
Why was there a second arrest warrant against Bemba?
On November 20, 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber II issued a warrant of arrest under seal for five individuals: Bemba; his lead defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo-Musamba; his case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo; Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala Wandu; and defense witness Narcisse Arido. All five, including Bemba, are charged with offenses against the administration of justice on the basis of their individual criminal liability. The alleged crimes include producing and filing false or forged documents, instructing witnesses to give false testimony, and transferring money to several defense witnesses.
The suspects in the witness tampering case made initial appearances before the court between December 2013 and March 2014. Until June 15, 2018, Bemba remained in ICC custody, and his four co-accused were granted interim release in October 2014.
On November 11, 2014 Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed charges against Bemba and his associates for corruptly influencing 14 witnesses involved in his main trial. The judges dismissed the charges relating to the production and filing of false or forged documents. The trial against the five individuals began before Trial Chamber VII on September 29, 2015, and the evidence phase concluded on April 29, 2016. The majority of witness testimony was in closed session. Trial Chamber VII found Bemba and his associates guilty on March 22, 2017. Bemba been sentenced for one additional year to his imprisonment and fined EUR 300,000, to be paid to the Court within 3 months of its decision. The fine sentence thereafter transferred to the Trust Fund for Victims.
Bemba has since appointed a new lead defense counsel, Peter Haynes, to handle his war crimes trial in place of Kilolo-Musamba. This is the second time Bemba has had to appoint a new lead counsel. His first lawyer, Nkwebe Liriss, died in February 2012.
Trial and conviction for corruptly influencing witnesses
Bemba was tried alongside his lead defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo-Musamba; his case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo; Congolese Member of Parliament Fidèle Babala Wandu; and defense witness Narcisse Arido. They were found guilty in October 2016 of offenses against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.
Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda were found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses and presenting their false evidence before the court. Bemba was additionally convicted for soliciting the giving of false testimony, mostly related to claims by witnesses that they served in the army of the Central African Republic, or in rebel forces, during 2002-2003. These witnesses claimed Bemba’s troops were not responsible for the crimes committed during the conflict.
Bemba received a one-year prison sentence and a €300,000 fine. He appealed the conviction and the sentence, arguing that because he was in prison at the time the Article 70 offenses were committed, he could only have played a limited role in these crimes, hence the penalty he received was “vastly disproportionate and unfair.” Bemba also faulted judges for excluding mitigating factors, such as his status as a detained defendant that relied and acted on the advice of his lawyers. Meanwhile, the prosecution asked appeals judges to raise the sentence for Bemba, as well as for Kilolo and Mangenda.
All convictions were upheld, although judges overturned Bemba and his lawyers’ conviction on the count of presenting false oral testimony. Appeals judges ordered the trial chamber to determine new sentences for Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda.
Why were Bemba and his lawyers’ communications intercepted?
The tapping of phone calls and interception of emails between Bemba and his lawyers was a contentious matter in both of Bemba’s trials. Pre-trial judge Cuno Tarfusser authorized the interception of communications following an application by prosecutors to conduct the interception as part of investigations into witness tampering allegations.
The prosecution said the interceptions showed that Bemba was speaking to witnesses and authorizing payments to them in exchange for false testimony. They also showed that Kilolo made phone calls or sent text messages to defense witnesses during periods when such contact was prohibited.
Bemba cited the interceptions, which he deemed illegal, in appeals against conviction in both trials. In the witness tampering trial, his lawyers argued that judges erred by relying on evidence that was obtained by means that violated the court’s founding law and internationally recognized human rights. They claimed Bemba’s conviction rested on information that should have been excluded pursuant to Article 69(5) of the Rome Statute and Rule 73(1) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence because of the absence of an effective and impartial system for identifying and vetting confidential and privileged information and an erroneous legal definition of privilege.
Such information 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.
In its appeal pleading, the defense in the main trial stated that some of the communications obtained by prosecution officials as part of investigations into allegations of witness tampering constituted privileged and other confidential defense communications, including discussions about defense strategy, prospective witnesses, the defense’s perception of the strength of its case, and internal defense assessments of how some its witnesses had performed, including the reaction of the judges in the main case.
The telecoms operators that provided data records to prosecution investigators include KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile (The Netherlands); Orange (Cameroon); Telia Sonera (Sweden); Free Mobile (France); Belgacom, BASE Company, and Movistar (Belgium); and VodaCom (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
What is the background of the conflict in the Central African Republic?
Violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has its roots in struggles for state power that have existed since CAR’s independence in 1960. From independence until its first democratic elections in 1993, CAR only had three leaders. There were three coups: in 1966, 1979, and 1981. From the beginning, CAR’s authoritarian leaders relied on outside support, for the most part either from former colonial power France or neighboring Libya.
Ange-Félix Patassé won elections in 1993. In putting down three army rebellions during 1996-1997, he too relied on French military assistance. The mutinies ended in 1997 with the Bangui Agreements, which called for the disarming of former rebels, militias and other armed groups. A small inter-African observer mission (MISAB) was followed by a United Nations mission (MINURCA) to monitor the agreements.
In 1999, Patassé won reelection. But in May 2001 former President André Kolingba (in power from 1981-1993) attempted to topple him through another coup. (Patassé had failed in his own coup attempt against Kolingba in 1982.) To repel it, Patassé turned to assistance from Libya. He also turned to Jean-Pierre Bemba and his MLC militia. Kolingba fled, along with hundreds of soldiers from the national army (FACA).
Patassé removed his chief of staff, François Bozizé, in October 2001, after accusing him of complicity in Kolingba’s coup attempt. When Patassé ordered Bozizé’s arrest the following month, violence broke out in Bangui. Bozizé fled to Chad with a few hundred army soldiers. Chad refused to extradite Bozizé and tensions between CAR and Chad grew.
In August 2002, troops of the CAR presidential guard (USP) and a militia headed by Colonel Abdoulaye Miskine – a Chadian man who was backed by Libya – crossed into southern Chad to attack Bozizé and his supporters. Chadian forces retaliated. They succeeded in beating back the attack, and pushed into northern CAR, where Bozizé was able to establish a base.
Over this period following Kolingba’s coup attempt, Patassé was having difficulty paying remaining members of the FACA. Discontent in the ranks was growing and Patassé increasingly relied on Libyan bodyguards for protection. When Bozizé attacked in October 2002, Patassé immediately sought help from three sources: a militia he created outside the army commanded by Colonel Miskine, Libya, and Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC. MLC forces immediately crossed the border from the DRC.
Bozizé’s fighters quickly reached Bangui, where there was heavy fighting. But the pro-Patassé groups then succeeded in pushing Bozizé’s forces back to the north of the capital. For its part, the MLC remained in CAR for five months. What happened during this time was central to the trial of the Jean-Pierre Bemba. The Prosecutor alleged that MLC fighters went on a rampage, committing crimes of murder, rape and pillaging against residents of CAR.
On March 15, 2003, Bozizé and his supporters took control of Bangui while Patassé was out of the country. Patassé was unable to return and went into exile in Togo. Bozizé promised to restore democracy. Voters approved a new constitution for CAR in December 2004 and elections were held in May 2005. Patassé was not allowed to run and Bozizé won. Patassé did eventually return to CAR in December 2009 to contest a presidential election, which he lost. He died on April 5, 2011, at the Douala Referral Hospital in Cameroon.
Continued efforts to find peace in CAR have proved difficult. A national dialogue held in September and October 2003 attempted to bridge the gaps between various CAR factions, and voters approved a new constitution in 2004. But conflict in northern CAR has continued in the form of various rebellions, fuelled by general lawlessness, ethnic tension, and remaining power rivalries. Rebel groups from Chad and Darfur have operated out of northern CAR. Reports indicate that the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose leaders are sought by the ICC on charges related to northern Uganda, has also launched attacks in CAR. A peace agreement between the government and the UFDR rebel group was signed in April 2007, and in December 2008, the government, most major militia leaders, and civil society organizations met for an “Inclusive Political Dialogue” (IPD) that led to formation of a multi-party government. Despite these steps, fighting in the north continued.
In March 2013, Bozizé was overthrown in a violent coup led by a young coalition of rebel forces, the Séléka, angry over a perceived breach of a ceasefire agreement. The Séléka groups are alleged to have committed serious crimes including unlawful killings, rape, torture, and pillage. The Security Council issued a statement condemning the coup and the ensuing violence and looting, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced a fact-finding mission to document ongoing violations. On September 24, 2014, the ICC Prosecutor announced she was opening a second investigation in CAR with respect to crimes committed since August 2012. To date, there have been no arrests made in the second investigation.
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo: Leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC); Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from July 2003 to December 2006.
Judges of Trial Chamber III
- Sylvia Steiner (Presiding)
- Kuniko Ozaki
- Joyce Aluoch
- Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor
- Petra Kneur, Senior Trial Lawyer
- Jean-Jacques Badibanga, Trial Lawyer
- Massimo Scaliotti, Trial Lawyer
- Ibrahim Yillah, Trial Lawyer
- Eric Iverson, Trial Lawyer
- Thomas Bifwoli, Associate Trial Lawyer
- Hesham Mourad, Associate Trial Lawyer
- Bärbel Carl, Associate Trial Lawyer
- Horejah Bala-Gaye, Assistant Trial Lawyer
- Peter Haynes
- Kate Gibson
- Kai Ambos
Legal Representatives of the Victims
- Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson
- Paolina Massidda (Office of Public Counsel for Victims)
- Peter Lewis, Registrar
Key groups and organizations that could be referred to during the trial
- APRD (Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy): A rebel group active in the north since 2005, initially consisting of past members of former President Patassé’s presidential guard and led by Malian national Florian Ndjadder. Former Defense Minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth became its political leader in 2008, operating from exile in France.
- Banyamulenge: Ethnic Tutsi concentrated in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the CAR, “Banyamulenge” is also frequently used ot refer to Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC militia (see below).
- BINUCA (UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic): A follow-on mission to BONUCA (see below).
- BONUCA (UN Peacebuilding Support Office in the Central African Republic): UN office active from February 2000 to January 2010 with a mandate to provide the government with political advice.
- CEMAC: Central African Economic and Monetary Community.
- CEN-SAD (Community of Saharan-Sahel States): An international organization of 21 states founded with strong Libyan backing in February 1998.
- CPJP (Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace): A rebel group that emerged in 2008.
- ECCAS: Economic Community of Central African States.
- EUFOR (European Union Force in Chad and the Central African Republic): A European peacekeeping force of 3,700 troops, active from March 2008 to March 2009.
- FACA: Forces Armées Centrafricaines. The armed forces of the Central African Republic (CAR), established after independence in 1960.
- FDPC (Democratic Front for the People of the Central African Republic): A militia active in northern CAR since 2005, led by Colonel Abdoulaye Miskine.
- FOMUC (Multinational Force in the Central African Republic): Name of a security force for then-President Patassé, made up of 350 soldiers from three African countries. It received its mandate from CEMAC.
- KNK (Kwan Na Kwa): President Bozizé’s political party. In the Sango language, the name means “Work, Nothing but Work”.
- MICOPAX (Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the CAR): Small peacekeeping and support mission of the ECCAS with 500 personnel from five African countries deployed since July 2008.
- MINURCA (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic): Deployed from April 1998 to February 2000 with a mandate for peacekeeping in and around Bangui, supervision and monitoring of disarmament, assistance in capacity building, and support of presidential elections.
- MINURCAT (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad): Police training and judicial reform mission launched in September 2007. A military component was added in March 2008, so that MINURCAT would be able to take over the work of EUFOR after its withdrawal.
- MISAB (Observer Mission for the Bangui Accords): A small inter-African mission deployed in CAR following the 1997 Bangui Agreements.
- MLC: Movement for the Liberation of the Congo. Founded in 1998 by Jean-Pierre Bemba, this rebel group turned political party is based out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). With Ugandan support, the MLC fought the DRC government during the Second Congo War. Shortly thereafter it took part in the transitional government and is currently the main opposition to the sitting government.
- MLCJ (Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice): A rebel militia that broke away from the UFDR in August 2008, led by Abakar Sobone.
- MLPC (Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People): The political party of former President Ange-Félix Patassé. Currently led by 2005 presidential candidate Martin Ziguélé.
- MNSP (National Movement for Salvation of the Homeland): A rebel militia that split away from the MLCJ in May 2009 and is led by Hassan Ousman.
- UFDR (Union of Democratic Forces): A rebel group operating in northern CAR since November 2006, near the border with Sudan. Its members are largely of Gula ethnicity. It is led by Zacharia Damane. President Bozizé has accused the government of Sudan of backing the UFDR.
- USP (United Presidential Security): The CAR presidential guard, which is formally called the Protection and Security of Institutions Battalion (BPSI).
Key Individuals Referred to During Bemba’s Trial
- Jean-Bedel Bokassa: President of CAR from 1966-1979. He declared himself emperor in 1974.
- François Bozizé: Current president of the Central African Republic. Assumed power in 2003 after leading a rebellion against former president Ange-Félix Patassé.
- David Dacko: French-backed first president of CAR from 1960 to 1965. He was toppled in a coup launched by his cousin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, on New Year’s Eve 1965. Dacko returned to power through a French-supported coup in 1979. In turn, in 1981, Army Chief of Staff André Kolingba toppled Dacko in a bloodless coup.
- Jean-Jacques Demafouth: Defense Minister under President Patassé until Patassé accused him of complicity in a 2001 coup attempt. Since 2008, political head of the APRD rebel militia. Resides in France.
- Joseph Kabila: Current president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the son of Laurent Kabila. Joseph Kabila defeated Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2006 presidential elections in the DRC, the outcome of which Bemba disputed.
- Laurent Kabila: Former President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, assassinated in 2001. Father of Joseph Kabila.
- André Kolingba: President of the CAR from the time he toppled David Dacko in a coup in 1981 until he lost elections to Ange-Félix Patassé in 1993. Kolingba failed with a May 2001 coup attempt against Patassé.
- Martin Koumtamadji (a.k.a. Colonel Abdoulaye Miskine): a Chadian national who since 2005 has led the Libyan-backed Democratic Front for the People of the Central African Republic (FDPC). Served as an aide to former President Patassé from 1993-2003. Patassé placed Koumatamadji in charge of a special unit outside the army to fight coup attempts by François Bozizé in 2002 and 2003.
- Abdoulaye Miskine: see Koumtamadji, Martin.
- Ange-Félix Patassé: President of CAR from his victory in 1993 elections. He was re-elected in 1999, but deposed in a 2003 coup led by François Bozizé. While in power, Patassé invited Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC into CAR.
- Martin Ziguélé: Served as prime minister under President Patassé from April 2001 until March 2003.
- Witness 38: A crime base witness, who testified that MLC troops robbed, beat, raped, and persecuted CAR civilians. He said that although there were many military groups in the area, only the MLC committed atrocities against civilians. He testified with voice and facial distortion.
- Dr. Adeyinka Akinsulure-Smith: An expert witness, who is a counseling psychologist with New York University who has conducted clinical and psychological assessments of three victims of sexual violence in the Central African Republic (CAR). This witness described the ‘extensive’ PTSD, depression and anxiety suffered by CAR rape victims.
- Witness 22: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. She described how MLC soldiers stormed her house, gang-raped her, looted her home and shot the family dog. She testified that the rapists spoke Lingala, a Congolese language, and French.
- Witness 87: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. She told the court that three MLC soldiers raped her, shot and killed her brother and looted her home. According to her testimony, soldiers who committed atrocities in the CAR spoke Lingala, a Congolese language.
- Witness 68: A crime base witness, who testified that she was raped by two MLC soldiers while a third stepped on her arms to ensure she remained on the ground. She said that after her rape she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Witness 68 testified that the soldiers who raped her spoke Lingala, a Congolese language. She testified with face and voice distortion.
- Witness 23: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. He said that three soldiers from Mr. Bemba’s militia raped him in the presence of his wives and children. He also said that over a period of four days, the Congolese soldiers repeatedly raped his children and his wives.
- Witness 81: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. She said that she was raped by four MLC soldiers and then fled from her home. She said when she returned, she found MLS soldiers in front of her home that forced her to cook for them.
- Witness 82: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. She testified that two MLC soldiers raped her when she was 12 years old. She said the Congolese soldiers also raped her sisters and her grandmother and bludgeoned her brother to death.
- Witness 80: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion. She testified that she, her four children, and her husband were subject to multiple rapes by the MLC soldiers. The witness also said that her home was looted.
- Witness 42: A crime base witness, who testified with face and voice distortion and much of his testimony was given in closed session. He said that MLC soldiers had looted his home and shop, raped his ten-year-old daughter, and forced his son to cook for them on the front lines.
- Witness 73: A crime base witness, who testified with facial and voice distortion and claimed that MLC soldiers had raped his neighbor’s young daughter and looted his neighbor’s kiosk. In his victim application, he claimed that MLC soldiers had raped his daughter. In court, he recanted, saying that his then 10 year old daughter had consensual sex with an MLC soldier. He testified that a man who identified himself as a staff of the ICC reparations office advised him to make false claims in his victim application.
- Witness 79: A crime base witness, who testified with voice and facial distortion. She testified that MLC soldiers raped her and her 11 year old daughter. She also testified that the MLC, under the leadership of an aide to then-CAR president Patassé, attacked a cattle market during which her husband was killed.
- Witness 29: A crime base witness, who gave most of her testimony in closed session and testified with voice and facial distortion. The witness testified that she tested positive for HIV after she was raped by three MLC soldiers.
- Witness 11: A crime base witness, who testified she recognized soldiers as being a part of the MLC because they spoke Lingala. She said these soldiers committed brutalities in the CAR in 2002 and 2003, including gang-rape and looting.
- Professor William Samarin: A linguistics and anthropology expert, who testified that MLC fighters may have spoken other languages besides Lingala, a Bantu language native to the DRC. The expert witness testified that the DRC is the only one among countries that neighbor the CAR where there are Bantu-speaking populations.
- Witness 75: An insider witness, who testified entirely in closed session. According to prosecutors, this witness gave evidence linking Mr. Bemba to the crimes allegedly committed by his troops in the CAR. He also testified about the MLC command structure of operations.
- Firmin Feindiro: A crime base witness, who is the Central African Prosecutor-General. He told the court about an inquiry he led into crimes committed during the 2002–2003 conflict. The probe included abuses allegedly committed by Mr. Bemba’s armed group and concluded that Mr. Patassé commanded all Central African government troops and their allies in the country, including the MLC. He said that the MLC had committed most of the crimes he had investigated, including rape, murder, theft, and looting. He said that they concluded that Mr. Bemba and others had “intellectual responsibility” for these crimes and charged him for these crimes.
- Dr. André Tabo: An expert on sexual violence as a tool of war, who treated and assessed numerous women raped during that conflict. He said MLC soldiers raped CAR women as “punishment” for supporting rebels who attempted to overthrow then president Ange-Félix Patassé. He also said that women were considered to be ‘war booty.’
- Pamphile Oradimo: The Senior Investigating Judge of the CAR, testified as a crime base witness that CAR generals told him that when Mr. Bemba’s troops were in the country, they were commanded by former president Ange-Félix Patassé. He testified that after his investigation, he did not find sufficient evidence implicating Mr. Bemba in crimes allegedly committed by the MLC during 2002 and 2003.
- Witness 63: An insider witness, who testified with voice and facial distortion and gave much of his testimony in closed session. Witness 63 described how MLC fighters raped, looted, and murdered civilians with impunity in the towns of PK 12, PK 45, and Damara. He claimed atrocities worsened after a visit by Mr. Bemba. He also testified that the MLC used child soldiers as scouts.
- Witness 209: A crime base witness, who testified with voice and facial distortion. He claimed he saw MLC soldiers load pillaged items into an aircraft that were transported to the DRC. He testified about widespread looting by MLC soldiers in Damara. The witness also said that Rwandan nationals served in the MLC, as well as former Mobutu soldiers and Mbaka-speaking people.
- Witness 110: A crime base witness, who testified with protective measures, including voice and facial distortion. She testified that MLC soldiers looted property from her house and that of her neighbor. She said the soldiers occupied her neighbor’s house for several months.
- Witness 112: A crime base witness, who testified that MLC troops occupied Begua, a town in CAR, for three months, where they looted houses. The witness said that MLC soldiers had murdered his wife. He said Mr. Bemba regularly called the commander stationed in Begua. Witness 112 testified with voice and facial distortion.
- Flavien Mbata: A director in the Constitutional Court of the Central African Republic, testified via video link from Bangui. As a crime base witness, he testified that his house was looted by the MLC, who forcefully occupied the house for three months, leaving behind military documents when they withdrew.
- Witness 169: An insider witness, who testified entirely in closed session. According to prosecutors, this witness gave evidence linking Mr. Bemba to the crimes allegedly committed by MLC troops in the CAR. He also testified about the MLC command structure.
- Witness 173: An insider witness, who testified about numerous atrocities allegedly committed by Mr. Bemba’s troops, including rapes, killings, and plunder. He explained that because Mr. Bemba did not pay his troops, the fighters had to fend for themselves and ignored the MLC code of conduct. He testified with image and voice distortion, and much of his testimony was given in closed session.
- Witness 178: An insider witness, who testified with image and voice distortion and gave much of his evidence in closed session. He testified that CAR officials provided arms, uniforms, and communication devices to Mr. Bemba’s MLC troops upon their arrival in Bangui. The witness also named top MLC officers and stated that the accused, not Ange-Félix Patassé, then president of CAR, gave direct and frequent orders to the troops
- Witness 33: An insider witness, who testified with voice and facial distortion and gave most of his testimony in closed session. He testified about the activities of the MLC, including the strategic importance of Bangui for Mr. Bemba’s efforts in the DRC conflict. Witness 33 also testified that Mr. Bemba had a communication center near his residence, which he used to communicate with his commanders and that Mr. Bemba could issue direct orders to troops on the ground.
- Witness 32: An insider witness, who testified about the command structure of operations carried out in the CAR at the time Mr. Bemba’s troops were in that country fighting alongside President Ange-Félix Patassé’s forces. He also testified that supplies for the MLC came from Bangui, capital of the CAR. Much of this witness’ testimony was done in closed session. He testified with voice and facial distortion when in open session.
- Witness 65: A former insider in Mr. Bemba’s militia, testified about oral and written reports that Bemba received from his officers deployed in CAR, but claimed Mr. Bemba received only general information about the MLC troops. Distinct from other insiders, Witness 65 testified that Mr. Bemba would ask his commanders to enforce the MLC code of conduct. The witness testified with voice and facial distortion and frequently testified in closed session.
- Joseph Mokondoui: A crime base witness, who served in the Presidential Guard of the CAR up to 2009. The witness testified that Mr. Bemba’s troops did not carry out joint operations with the national army during their deployment in CAR in 2002 and 2003. However, according to the witness, the accused’s troops regularly received intelligence information from CAR military authorities. He also testified that rebel forces led by current president François Bozizé committed rapes and massacres in various towns on their match to the capture of the capital Bangui during 2003.
- Cyprien-Francis Ossibouyen: A crime base witness. He testified about incidents of gang-rape of CAR women by members of the accused’s militia. He testified that he saw a group of between 25 and 30 MLC soldiers rape 12 women. However, this witness’ testimony was inconsistent about the number and details of the incidents.
- Thierry Lengbe: A colonel in the Central African army. As crime base witness, he stated that Mr. Bemba’s MLC militia only carried out one joint operation with the CAR army. The colonel also stated that CAR army radio equipment did not work with the MLC communication equipment.
- Witness 213: An insider witness and former member of the MLC, testified that Mr. Bemba had a satellite phone at his residence that he used to communicate orders to his commanders. He said Mr. Bemba also had a communication center a few meters from his residence from which operators received daily reports via radio about operations in the CAR during 2002 and 2003. He said he heard Mr. Bemba issue orders about the CAR operations.
- Witness 69: A crime base witness, who testified with voice and image distortion and gave most of his evidence in closed session. He testified that MLC soldiers had killed his sister, raped his wife, and sodomized him.
- General Daniel Opande: An expert witness, who provided evidence on military command structures and command responsibility. A military expert, General Opande testified that Mr. Bemba had the means of exerting direct control over his MLC troops deployed in the CAR conflict during 2003 and 2003. He also testified that the MLC had a hierarchy and organization synonymous with military organization.
- Witness 45: An insider witness and former member of the MLC, gave most of his testimony in closed session. He testified about advising Mr. Bemba to take his soldiers to trial when they were accused of rapes, murders, and pillaging against civilians in the CAR. The witness said only a few soldiers were tried for extortion and exploitation of the population, and their trials were stage-managed by Mr. Bemba.
- Witness 44: An insider witness and former member of the MLC, testified entirely in closed session. According to prosecutors, this witness gave evidence linking Mr. Bemba to the crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Bemba’s troops in the CAR. He also testified about the MLC command structure.
- Witness 15: An insider witness, who testified entirely in closed session. According to prosecutors, this witness gave evidence linking Mr. Bemba to the crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Bemba’s troops in the CAR. He also testified about the MLC command structure.
- Witness 36: A former insider in the MLC, testified via video link from Kinshasa in the DRC due to health considerations. All of his testimony was heard in closed session. According to prosecutors, the testimony by this witness related to the MLC’s operations during their involvement in the conflict and Mr. Bemba’s alleged liability.
- Pulchérie Makiandakama (Victim a/0866/10): The first victim to take the witness stand in the trial, who was called to give testimony by the judges. She told the court that she was twice gang-raped by soldiers belonging to the accused’s militia. She described pillaging and murder in the Mongoumba locality.
- Judes Mbetingou (Victim a/1317/10): The second victim to testify in this trial, who was called to testify by the Judges. He testified about indiscriminate pillaging and rape by Mr. Bemba’s MLC fighters upon their arrival in Sibut on February 24, 2003.
- Francis Félicien Vouloube De Mbioka (Victim a/0511/08): The victim was injured by a gunshot reportedly fired by the accused’s soldiers, and he was an eyewitness to the murder of his mother. He was not questioned under oath and his testimony will not form part of the evidence. He testified via video link from Bangui, the capital of the CAR.
- Victim a/0394/08: A victim of pillage in Damara town, addressed court about the crimes of murder and rape. He testified via video link from Bangui. Victim a/0394/08 stated that Mr. Bemba’s fighters occupied his house in Damara for two months. The soldiers looted all of his property and destroyed his house. He was not questioned under oath and his testimony will not form part of the evidence.
- Victim a/0542/08: A victim of pillage and rape allegedly carried out by Mr. Bemba’s soldiers in the Central African town of Bossangoa. Victim a/0542/08 addressed the court via video link from Bangui, the capital of the CAR. She was not questioned under oath and her testimony will not form part of the evidence.
- Jacques Seara: A French military expert, who testified thatMr. Bemba did not command MLC troops in the CAR because he did not have the necessary means to do so. He stated that the Congolese troops were supplied with logistics and fell under the command of CAR authorities. According to his investigations, the Bozizé-led rebels were responsible for some atrocities.
- Octave Dioba: Also known as Witness D59, Mr. Dioba appeared as a geo-political expert. He stated that the MLC intervention in the CAR was legitimate as per the Lusaka Agreement and the mutual assistance pact of the CEMAC. He stated that the MLC, which was a recognized administrative and military authority in the Congo, was obliged to protect the national security of the country, including ensuring safety at its borders with neighboring countries.
- Professor Eyamba George Bokamba: A linguistics expert, who testified that speaking the language Lingala did not necessarily mean that the perpetrators of crimes against Central African civilians were Congolese. The professor, also known as Witness D60, described the origins and ‘social linguistics’ of the Lingala language. He stated that there were Central African citizens who spoke Lingala. These speakers included members of the CAR armed forces.
- Prosper Ndouba: A former spokesperson of president Patassé, Mr. Ndouba gave testimony about his abduction by the Bozizé rebels. He stated that during the 38 days that he was held hostage, he witnessed the rebels commit crimes including torture, rape, looting, and massacres. He added that some of his rebel captors spoke Lingala.
- Witness D04-07: A former FACA intelligence officer, Witness D04-07 testified that the MLC fell under CAR command. Testifying with his image and voice distorted to protect his identity, he also gave details of the logistics support given to the Congolese soldiers by Patassé’s government. He attributed some crimes to Bozizé rebels. His cross-examination by the Prosecution was conducted in closed session. On September 23, 2012, prior to the completion of his testimony, Witness D04-07 disappeared from his hotel room. He was reported missing and judges suspended his testimony until further notice.
- Witness D04-011: This witness was due to testify after Witness D04-07. However, he did not board the flight booked for him to travel to The Hague. In November 2013, it was revealed that this witness is Narcisse Arido, who was named in an ICC arrest warrant alleging he provided false or forged documents and that he was an intermediary in transferring money to witnesses.
- Witness D04-50: A former staff of the USP, he said that MLC troops arrived in Bangui on October 30, 2002 and received USP uniforms. He also testified that during operations, USP led MLC soldiers around “unknown territory.” According to him, General Mazzi and Colonel Lengbe of the FACA commanded the joint troops. He stated that on a visit to the conflict country, Mr. Bemba ordered his fighters to obey General Mazzi, Colonel Lengbe and General Ferdinand Bombayake. He testified that he didn’t see any MLC crimes. Witness D04-50 testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion and most of his testimony was heard in closed session.
- Witness D04-57: A former senior member of Patassé’s security forces, who said that during their first deployment to the CAR in 2001, the MLC protected civilians. According to him, there were some Congolese nationals among Bozizé’s rebels, and they spoke Lingala. These Congolese were recruited into the rebel forces well before the arrival of the MLC in the CAR in October 2002. He testified that the MLC had “good” working relations with their Central African counterparts. Witness D04- 57 also said that in 2008 he met ICC officials who interviewed him about the conflict, but he didn’t know why they did not call him to testify. This witness testified with protective measures.
- Witness D04-64: Another former official in the government of president Patassé, he testified that the MLC were not under the command of Mr. Bemba but that of Central African generals. These CAR authorities provided MLC troops with uniforms, communications equipment, vehicles, weapons and monetary allowances for food and other necessities. He also said that Mr. Bemba’s troops did not arrive in the CAR until October 30, 2002. Witness D04-64 testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion.
- 10. Witness D04-51: This witness testified that Patassé issued commands to MLC soldiers through General Bombayake. He said Patassé followed the MLC’s entire field operations through a communications system set up at his residence and that CAR soldiers led the Congolese soldiers during operations because the latter did not know the terrain. He said the MLC troops arrived on October 30, 2002. Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Witness D04-51 denied being paid to testify for Mr. Bemba. This witness testified with protective measures.
- Witness D04-55: This individual was granted in-court protective measures, including image and voice distortion of public broadcasts of his testimony. Before he started testifying, he expressed concerns about his safety and made a request to judges for all of his evidence to be heard in closed session. In moments where his testimony was heard in open court, he denied being coached by defense lawyers or receiving any money during meetings with the defense team.
- Witness D04-48: This witness testified that MLC soldiers convicted of crimes committed in the CAR were investigated, prosecuted and sentenced. All the sentenced soldiers served their full jail terms in Congo. He recalled that MLC had an effective military courts system which was set up in 2001. He testified with protective measures including image and voice distortion.
- Witness D04-49: A former insider in the MLC, who said that troops in the group were well trained. He said military discipline, as set out in the group’s code of conduct, was emphasized during training. Testifying with protective measures, he added that the code of conduct was popularized among soldiers by being published in the Congolese language Lingala and in French. He said the MLC’s operations in Congo were coordinated through a communications center located two or three meters from the residence of Colonel Dieudonné Amuli, the MLC chief of staff.
- Witness D04-16: This witness also defended discipline among MLC soldiers and the effectiveness of the group’s court martial. He testified that frequent training sessions were held for all units, both at the frontline and operational levels. His evidence was heard with his image and voice distorted in order to protect his identity.
- Witness D04-66: A trader who supplied foodstuffs to MLC during their deployment in the CAR. He testified, with protective measures, that he did not see or hear of any crimes committed by the MLC. He only heard of one incident of looting by Bozizé soldiers.
- Witness D04-19: This was the first defense witness to testify at the resumption of hearings following the temporary suspension of the trial. He was also the first defense witness to testify via video link. All of his testimony was heard in closed session.
- Witness D04–45: A former member of the MLC, he said the Congolese troops were integrated into the CAR army and were commanded by CAR generals during operations. He denied the presence of MLC troops in some of the towns where prosecutors allege crimes took place. During the course of his video link testimony, he was found with notes on his person. He denied prosecution suggestions that the notes were a script given to him relating to matters in contention at the trial.
- Witness D04- 21: This witness, a former senior member of the MLC, said Mr. Bemba had an “elementary” military background that made it impossible for him to individually make major decisions related to military operations. He said the MLC troops adhered to a strict code of conduct and were well trained, some of them from military academies in the UK and the United States. The witness said following allegations of his troops’ misconduct, Mr. Bemba formed a commission of inquiry that travelled to the CAR to investigate. This witness, who was unable to travel to the seat of the court in The Hague due to the ill health of an individual close to him, testified via video link.
- Witness D4-39: Another former MLC insider, he said that Mr. Bemba delegated command of his troops to Central African authorities because it would have been difficult for him to obtain intelligence information from the battlefield and react to it in a timely manner. He also said the Congolese troops received logistical support from the CAR army as it was difficult for the MLC to supply those units from its headquarters in Congo, due to the distance and limited means. He testified remotely via video link.
- Witness D04-56: This individual was a former fighter in the Bozizé rebellion. He said that his colleagues committed rape, murder, and pillaging, and that during these marauding operations, they spoke the Congolese language Lingala. He explained that the rebels used Lingala because they noticed it instilled fear in the civilian population and they would comply more easily with their demands. According to him, the violent behavior of the Bozizé rebels “wasn’t anything out of the ordinary” but a “generalized” method of operation. Testifying via video link, he said that he was unaware of crimes perpetrated by the MLC.
- Witness DO-18: A former high-ranking officer in the MLC, he absolved Mr. Bemba of command and control. He stated that the group’s operations and discipline were the responsibility of the Chief of General Staff, Colonel Dieudonné Amuli. The witness was in the contingent of MLC soldiers that intervened in the CAR during 2001. He said during that intervention, MLC troops fought alongside the FACA and received orders from General François Bozizé, who at the time was the chief of staff. Regarding an account given by Mr. Bemba in his book about issuing orders to the troops deployed in the CAR in 2001, Witness D04-18 said it was inaccurate and that the book’s editors could have embellished it for “political propaganda purposes.” During his video link testimony, the witness said he had left the military by the time of the 2002-2003 conflict. As such, he was unable to testify to testify about the particular events over which Mr. Bemba is on trial.
- Witness D04-02: A former soldier in the CAR armed forces, he placed blame for crimes committed against civilians during the conflict on the Bozizé rebels. He said following their arrival, the Bemba troops received uniforms and other necessities, including communication devices “exactly like the CAR soldiers” from the country’s authorities. He stated that joint operations by the MLC and FACA to drive the Bozizé’s rebels from Bangui commenced on October 30. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-09: A former military officer in the CAR army, he said the MLC troops were integrated in the country’s army. He said that he was not aware of any crimes committed by Mr. Bemba’s troops and laid blame for murders and pillaging on the Bozizé led rebels. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-03: This witness also served in the FACA. He too attributed violent atrocities to the Bozizé’s rebels. In addition, he said that his colleagues committed acts of violence against individuals they suspected of supporting the Bozizé rebellion. He appeared via video link.
- Witness D04-04: Recalled the arrival of the MLC troops into the CAR. He stated that the troops were merged with local forces and that orders for joint operations were issued through the Center for Command Operations (CCOP), which he said was headed by Central African generals. He said he was not aware of any MLC crimes and that there may have been “confusion” over the identity of the perpetrators of crimes. He also said it was possible that Central African soldiers who spoke Lingala, a language native to the Democratic Republic of Congo, committed crimes. He appeared via video link.
- Witness D04-06: A former Central African soldier, he said his country’s army commanders issued orders to Bemba’s troops. According to him, the CAR forces and their MLC counterparts were in “good coordination” throughout the operations. He denied any knowledge of crimes perpetrated by the Congolese troops. He testified for two days via video link from an undisclosed location in Africa.
- Witness D04-23: By way of video link, this witness testified that during October 2002, the Bozizé rebels pillaged several towns, including Fu, Boy-Rabé, and PK 12. He also attributed acts of rape to the rebels, including an incident that affected him personally. According to this witness, the rebels spoke numerous languages, including the Central African dialect Sango, French, and Lingala. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-26: In his video link testimony, he blamed the Bozizé rebels for crimes committed during the conflict. The prosecution challenged him, stating that he had earlier indicated that he had knowledge of MLC operations during the conflict and yet he gave no evidence to that effect throughout his testimony. The witness explained that he was being “cautious” during his initial contact with defense lawyers.
- Witness D04-25: A former member of Mr. Bemba’s personal security detail, he downplayed the role played by his former boss in commanding MLC troops. According to him, military operations were the remit of the group’s chief of general staff, Dieudonné Amuli. He also stated that prior to the troops’ departure for the CAR, the accused did not give a speech which purportedly fuelled their misconduct. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-36: This witness testified that when Bozizé’s rebels arrived in his neighborhood on October 31, 2002, the local population fled their homes and the rebels started looting property, which they loaded on trucks. Testifying remotely by way of video link, he said the rebels carted away TV sets, recorders, suitcases, boxes of canned foods, bags of sugar, and generator sets.
- Witness D04-29: This witness told the trial that three rebels loyal to François Bozizé raped his wife and two others assaulted him on October 26, 2002. He said he heard reports of pillaging by the Congolese, but the fighters he saw retreating back to their country did not carry any looted goods. He did not hear or witness rape or murder by the troops. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-30: The only female witness who testified for the defense, the witness said that she was a victim of rape by the Bozizé’s rebels. This witness testified she subsequently learned that the rebels, who spent three days in her neighborhood, raped other women and committed other brutalities. Testifying via video link, she affirmed that she did not hear of any crimes perpetrated by Mr. Bemba’s troops.
- Witness D04-15: A former MLC official, he told the trial that the once deployed in the CAR, the Congolese troops fell under the command of Central African authorities. He said that this decision was taken by the MLC high command at a meeting that took place in the Congolese town of Gbadolite on October 27, 2002. The troops were deployed into the conflict on October 30 and did not receive any supplies from Congo thereafter, he said. The witness also stated that when Mr. Bemba heard about allegations of his troops’ misconduct, he contacted CAR authorities and ordered an investigation. According to this witness, Mr. Bemba did not have a satellite phone at his disposal to issue commands to his troops out in the field. He testified via video link.
- Witness D04-54: All of the evidence by this individual was heard in closed session. He testified for three days via video link.
- Witness D04-13: This witness, who was among the MLC troops deployed in the CAR, said they did not arrive into the conflict country until October 29, 2002. He said a small delegation of about 100 soldiers went into the country on October 26 for a meeting with local commanders, but they returned to the DRC the same day. During his testimony, he stated that he did not meet with prosecutors because he feared he would be prosecuted. Prosecutors asked him about inconsistencies between his testimony and documents tendered into evidence that indicated the MLC troops arrived in the conflict country on October 25. The witness explained that he was testifying about his experience and only the authors of the documents could testify about their contents. The witness also recalled the logistics support received from CAR officials including, an offer of a house for Mustafa Mukiza – the commander of the MLC troops in the CAR – to live in, which he declined. He was the last defense witness to give oral evidence and testified via video link.
Witnesses Called by the Judges
- Witness CHM-01: All of the evidence by this individual was heard in closed session through video link. He was one of two individuals that judges requested to testify in the trial. According to the judges, the names of the two individuals were “repeatedly mentioned” by prosecution and defense witnesses, yet none of the parties in the trial had called them to give evidence. The second individual declined to testify for reasons not made public.
Geographical terms referred to in the trial
- Bangui: The capital of the Central African Republic and a location in which the Prosecutor claims some of Bemba’s alleged crimes were committed.
- Bossongoa: A town in northwestern CAR that is the capital of Ouham prefecture, and a location in which the Prosecutor claims that some of Bemba’s crimes took place.
- Boy-Rabé: A neighborhood in Bangui, and one of the specific locations where the Prosecutor claims that some of Bemba’s alleged crimes took place.
- Combattant: A suburb of Bangui.
- Mongoumba: A town along the DRC border near Bangui, and one of the locations where the Prosecutor claims that some of Bemba’s alleged crimes took place.
- Oubangúi: The river that runs through Bangui and forms part of CAR’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- PK12 (Point Kilomètre 12): A suburb of Bangui where the Prosecutor claims some of Bemba’s alleged crimes took place.
- PK 22 (Point Kilomètre 22): A town near Bangui and one of the locations where the Prosecutor claims that some of Bemba’s alleged crimes took place.
December 7, 1999
The Central African Republic (CAR) signs the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
October 3, 2001
CAR ratifies the Rome Statute.
December 21, 2004
The CAR government refers crimes under the Rome Statute to the ICC.
The CAR government provides documents to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor regarding alleged crimes on its territory during 2002-2003. The Prosecutor begins an analysis of the situation.
May 10, 2007
The Prosecutor informs the CAR government, the Pre-Trial Chamber and the ICC President that he is opening of a full investigation of the CAR situation.
May 22, 2007
The Prosecutor publicly announces the launch of his investigation.
May 9, 2008
The Prosecutor requests Pre-Trial Chamber III to issue a warrant of arrest for Jean-Pierre Bemba.
May 23, 2008
Pre-Trial Chamber III issues a warrant of arrest and a request to the government of Belgium to arrest Bemba. Both documents are under seal.
May 24, 2008
Belgian police arrest Bemba near Brussels. The Pre-Trial Chamber unseals the arrest warrant.
June 10, 2008
Pre-Trial Chamber III issues a new warrant of arrest to replace the warrant of May 23, 2008. The Chamber adds two counts of murder, one as a war crime, and the other as a crime against humanity. The Chamber also issues a request to Belgium for the arrest and surrender of Bemba to the ICC.
July 3, 2008
Belgium transfers and surrenders Bemba to the ICC.
July 4, 2008
Bemba makes his first appearance in court. Pre-Trial Chamber III explains the charges against him.
December 12, 2008
Pre-Trial Chamber III approves 54 victims who will be able to participate in hearings on whether the charges against Bemba should go to trial. At the ICC, victims may give evidence in the proceedings even if they are not called by the prosecution or defense. They have their own legal representation in the courtroom.
January 12-15, 2009
Pre-Trial Chamber III holds hearings to determine whether the Prosecutor has sufficient evidence against Bemba to proceed to trial. During the pre-trial phase, the Prosecutor does not need to prove the case, but only show that there are substantial grounds to believe that the Accused committed the alleged crimes.
March 3, 2009
Pre-Trial Chamber III adjourns the confirmation hearing and asks the Prosecutor to reconsider how he has charged Bemba. The Prosecutor sought to charge Bemba for direct responsibility in committing crimes. The Chamber asked the Prosecutor to consider whether he should attempt to charge Bemba as being responsible for the crimes because he was a commander who ordered or failed to prevent or punish crimes committed by those under his command.
June 15, 2009
Pre-Trial Chamber III decides that there is enough evidence to proceed to trial on three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape). The Chamber rejects the prosecution request for three other counts. It finds that the Prosecutor has failed to provide sufficient evidence to charge Bemba with one count of crimes against humanity (torture) and two counts of war crimes (torture, and outrage on personal dignity).
August 14, 2009
The Single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II (previously called Pre-Trial Chamber III), Ekaterina Trendafilova, grants Bemba interim release from ICC custody until the start of the trial. The decision is suspended until a state is identified that is willing to accept Bemba. The Prosecutor appeals the decision on the same day.
September 18, 2009
The ICC Presidency constitutes Trial Chamber III to hear evidence in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. At the ICC, the judges who will hear the case are not the same as those who deal with pre-trial matters.
November 5, 2009
Trial Chamber III announces that the trial will begin on April 27, 2010.
December 2, 2009
The ICC Appeals Chamber overturns Pre-Trial Chamber II’s decision on interim release. Bemba remains in ICC custody.
February 25, 2010
The defense for Bemba submits an application to the trial chamber arguing that the case is inadmissible before the ICC. They cite three grounds for the challenge. They argue that the case could be properly conducted in the CAR, and so it is improper for the ICC – a court of last resort – to step in. They argue that the crimes alleged to have been committed are not serious enough to trigger ICC jurisdiction. And they argue that Bemba has suffered an abuse of the judicial process.
March 8, 2010
Trial Chamber III decides to postpone the start of the trial until July 5, 2010. It cites a need to consider the defense application arguing that the Bemba case is not admissible before the ICC before any trial can begin. The judges give the prosecution until March 29 to submit their views on the defense application, and they ask that CAR and DRC authorities be notified of the defense application so that they can make their views known by April 19, 2010. The judges note that the defense will be given an opportunity to respond to these observations.
April 27, 2010
Trial Chamber III holds a status conference with the parties to discuss Bemba’s admissibility challenge.
June 24, 2010
Trial Chamber III rejects the defense challenge on admissibility of the case before the ICC. It finds that CAR is unable to conduct the trial domestically, that the gravity of the alleged crimes is sufficient, and that the defense complaint about abuse of process “is without foundation.”
June 28, 2010
Bemba files a notice of appeal against Trial Chamber III’s decision on the defense challenge on admissibility of the case before the ICC.
July 26, 2010
Defense lawyers file documents before the Appeals Chamber of the ICC in support of Bemba’s appeal, raising four grounds of appeal. In his appeal, Bemba argues that the Trial Chamber erred in its decision that the decision of a lower court in CAR not to prosecute him was not final, that the Trial Chamber erred in its decision not to hear the evidence of an independent expert on the laws in CAR, that the Trial Chamber erred in its decision that the CAR did not have the capacity to conduct a trial of this kind, and that the Trial Chamber erred in its decision that Bemba’s action in filing a recent appeal before the courts in CAR was an “abuse of this court’s [ICC] process.”
October 19, 2010
The Appeals Chamber of the ICC delivers its decision in which it upheld the Trial Chamber’s earlier decision to dismiss Bemba’s admissibility challenge of the case before the ICC, thus paving the way for Bemba’s trial to commence.
October 21, 2010
Trial Chamber III holds a Status Conference and confirms that Bemba’s trial will commence on November 22, 2010.
November 22, 2010
Bemba’s case officially opens before Trial Chamber III of the ICC.
November 23, 2010
First witness for the prosecution begins testimony.
March 20, 2012
The 40th and final witness for prosecution completes testimony before the ICC.
May 1, 2012
The first victim participating in the trial begins testimony. Five out of 2,744 participating victims were selected to provide evidence to the Court. Only two of those five testified in open court.
August 14, 2012
Defense case begins.
November 14, 2013
The 34th witness for the defense completes testimony before the ICC.
November 19, 2013
Trial Chamber III refuses to grant an extension to the defense to present its final two witnesses, ending the presentation of evidence by Bemba’s defense.
November 20, 2013
Single Judge Cuno Tarfusser issues a warrant of arrest for Bemba, Bemba’s lead counsel, Aimé Kilolo-Musamba; case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo; former aide Fidèle Babala Wandu; and defense witness Narcisse Arido for allegedly forging evidence and bribing witness.
November 23-24, 2013
Bemba’s lead counsel, Aimé Kilolo-Musamba; case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo; former aide Fidèle Babala Wandu; and defense witness Narcisse Arido are arrested. All are subsequently ordered to be released on October 21, 2014.
April 7, 2014
Evidence phase of trial officially closes and judges set filing dates for final briefs.
October 2, 2014
Trial Chamber III reopens the presentation of evidence in case against Jean-Pierre Bemba to hear testimony on issues of witness credibility. The judges also reschedule final oral submissions, which were originally planned to begin October 13, 2014.
November 11, 2014
Pre-Trial Chamber II confirms some charges against Bemba and four co-accused for crimes against the administration of justice. Judges reject charges of intentionally submitting forged or false documents.
November 12-13, 2014
Closing arguments take place at the ICC before Trial Chamber III.
September 29, 2015
Opening statements in the Bemba et al. case take place before Trial Chamber VII.
February 29, 2016
Defense in the Bemba et al. case begins.
March 21, 2016
Trial Chamber III in Bemba’s main case finds him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape, committed in the CAR as commander of the MLC militia. It is the first time an ICC defendant is convicted under the theory of command responsibility. It is also the first time the ICC convicts a suspect for sexual violence.
May 31, 2016
Closing statements take place in the trial of Bemba et al. Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Fidèle Babala Wandu make unsworn oral statements during the closing.
June 21, 2016
Bemba is sentenced to 18 years in prison following his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is the longest sentence to-date ordered by ICC judges.
October 19, 2016
In the witness tampering trial, Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda were found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses, Arido was found guilty of corruptly influencing four witnesses, and Babala, two. Additionally, Bemba was found guilty of soliciting false testimony, Kilolo of producing false testimony, and Mangenda of aiding the false testimony of two witnesses and abetting the false testimony of seven witnesses.
Babala and Arido were both acquitted of charges of aiding the false testimony of witnesses and of the presentation of false evidence.
March 22, 2017
Bemba is sentenced to an additional year in prison for his conviction in the witness tampering trial. He is also ordered to pay a €300,000 fine to the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims. Aimé Kilolo Musamba is fined €30,000 and given a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years, suspended over three years. Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, which is also suspended for three years.
Fidèle Babala Wandu is sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and Narcisse Arido was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment. Since the sentences for the two individuals are less than the time they spent in pre-trial custody, judges considered their sentences as served.
January 9-11, 2018
Appeals hearings are held following defense appeal against conviction and appeals by the prosecution and the defense against the 18-year prison sentence. Among others, the hearings dwelt on the interpretation of a military commander’s responsibility for crimes committed by subordinates. On the sentence, the defense pleaded for a lower term while the prosecution asked judges to raise the prison sentence to a minimum of 25 years.
March 1, 2018
Bemba’s lawyers seek the disqualification of the judges from Trial Chamber III from handling the reparations proceedings in his main trial. The lawyers allege that the pattern of rulings by judges Joyce Aluoch, Geoffrey Henderson, and Chang-ho Chung, suggested that they had a bias against Bemba.
March 8, 2018
Appeals judges uphold the convictions of Bemba and his four associates for giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses. However, the judges overturned Bemba and his lawyers’ conviction over presentation of false oral testimony. They reverse the sentences imposed on Bemba, Kilolo, and Mangenda and direct the trial chamber to determine new sentences.
June 8, 2018
Bemba is acquitted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Appeals judges, in a majority decision, find that the trial chamber erred in finding that Bemba did not take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the crimes committed.
June 12, 2018
Trial Chamber VII orders the immediate release of Bemba from detention. 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.