International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Q&A With Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Bemba Sentence, ICC Convictions as Deterrents, and Moves to Improve Efficiency of the Prosecutor’s Office

Earlier this month, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda answered questions from International Justice Monitor. She spoke about the 18-year jail term handed to Jean-Pierre Bemba, how the Bemba and Thomas Lubanga convictions could act as deterrents, and the challenges that come with investigating and prosecuting numerous charges such as in the case of Bosco Ntaganda and Dominic Ongwen. The prosecutor also discusses what her office is doing to become more efficient.

Wairagala Wakabi (WW): In the view of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), what is the significance of the Bemba conviction?

Fatou Bensouda (FB): The verdict sends a strong message to all commanders around the world: you will be criminally responsible for atrocity crimes of subordinate troops if you fail … Continue Reading

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Reactions to Bemba’s Conviction

The conviction of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba has received wide coverage online, with numerous media outlets highlighting the significance of the verdict for the responsibility of commanders to discipline their forces, and others stressing the significance of the court’s recognition of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

Bemba, a former rebel leader who later served as a vice president in Congo, was on March 21 found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging). International Criminal Court (ICC) judges ruled that as commander-in-chief of the rebel force known as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), he knew that his troops were brutalizing civilians in the … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Colleagues Arrested for Witness Tampering Sparks an Indignant Response in the DRC

Dear readers – please find below a commentary written by Olivia Bueno at the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) in consultation with Congolese activists.  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of IRRI or of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

In the early morning hours of  November 24, police in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrested Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the DRC Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) (the party of Jean-Pierre Bemba) and transferred him to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mr. Wandu is a long time member of the opposition and close political ally of Bemba’s. He served as chief of … Continue Reading

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Q & A with International Criminal Court Registrar Herman von Hebel: Part II

Herman von Hebel is the newly-elected Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He spoke with the Open Society Justice Initiative in June 2013 and answered questions about his experience at other international tribunals, the Registry’s role in outreach, and priorities going forward.

TS: You earlier mentioned the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). How has this job compared so far to past positions as the Registrar for the SCSL and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon?

HvH: It is interesting because this is the third time I have had the privilege of being the Registrar for such institutions. The amazing thing is that every time it has proven to be a completely different job. Although the title is the same and the … Continue Reading

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Q & A with International Criminal Court Registrar Herman von Hebel: Part I

Herman von Hebel is the newly-elected Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC). He spoke with the Open Society Justice Initiative in June 2013 and answered questions about the work of the Registry and its role in providing administrative and judicial support to the ICC. 

Taegin Stevenson (TS): Could you describe how the registry helps to achieve the International Criminal Court’s mandate to end impunity for mass atrocities and how your role as the Registrar helps carry out this mandate?

Herman von Hebel (HvH): Registrar is a very funny title. I don’t think it covers the job very well. If you compare it with national legal systems either where the registrar is a non-existing concept or where it is an existing concept, … Continue Reading

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In Recent CAR Coup, Echoes of Past Violence

Dear readers – please find below a commentary written by Matt Solomon, a student at Fordham University School of Law. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The March 2013 coup in Central African Republic (CAR), removing President François Bozizé from power and forcing him to seek refuge out of the country, is the fourth such violent transfer of power in the country’s post-independence history. This time it was a young coalition of rebel forces, the Séléka, angry over a perceived breach of a ceasefire agreement, who led the charge. The ousted leader is no stranger to armed coup; after all, ten years ago Bozizé himself muscled … Continue Reading

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Q&A With Paolina Massidda, Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims at ICC

Paolina Massidda is the Principal Counsel of the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims at the International Criminal Court (ICC). She has represented thousands of victims participating in the proceedings before the Court, right from the first trial the ICC conducted, that of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga. In an interview in mid August, she explained to the Open Society Justice Initiative how victims’ participation has been shaped by the court over the years, her worries about possible  reviews to victims’ participation, and why the first decision issued by the court on reparations presents challenges. 

Wairagala Wakabi: One trial has been completed by the court and two others are going on. What are some of the positive things in … Continue Reading

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Q&A With Bemba Defense Lawyer Aimé Kilolo-Musamba

On Tuesday, August 14, 2012, Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba started his defense in his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Mr. Bemba has been detained at the ICC detention center following his arrest by Belgian authorities in May 2008 and hand-over to the court based in The Hague. Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba is criminally responsible, as military commander, of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crime (murder, rape, and pillaging) arising from the misconduct of his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops deployed in a conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003. He denies the charges. The Congolese troops were supporting president … Continue Reading

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Bemba’s Lead Counsel Nkwebe Liriss Dies

Nkwebe Liriss, the lead counsel of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s defense team, has passed away in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to a statement issued today by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Mr. Nkwebe Liriss’s death is an enormous loss to the court. His sharp legal acumen and dedication made him a highly accomplished jurist. While missing his contributions, the ICC Registry will continue to offer all necessary support to the team that he was leading in order to guarantee a high-level legal representation of Mr. Bemba,” said Silvana Arbia, Registrar of the ICC.

The statement said Mr. Liriss passed away in the Congolese capital Kinshasa on February 26, 2012 “after a long illness,” but provided no other details. A national of … Continue Reading

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Victims Ask to Testify in Bemba Trial After Prosecution Case Closes

Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is likely to hear the testimony of some victims of Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers’ brutalities once the prosecution case closes.

When the trial resumes on January 18, prosecutors will call their four remaining witnesses, who are expected to complete their testimony during February. Although judges have not yet granted permission to any victims to present in-court testimony, they have indicated that any such testimony would be heard before the opening of the defense case. Up to 1,861 victims are participating in the trial.

Victims’ lawyers last month asked for leave to call 16 victims to testify. However, the defense and prosecutors stated that this number was excessive, and allowing … Continue Reading

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