International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

A Year In The Bemba Trial at The ICC

Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial has been on at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for just over one year. This article reviews some of the milestones in the trial of the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the fourth individual to be tried by the court.

The Charges

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba “effectively acted as a military commander” and “had effective authority and control” over his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops who committed the crimes of rape, murder, and pillaging in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Prosecutors claim although the accused knew his troops were committing these crimes, he did not take “all necessary and reasonable measures within his power to prevent or repress their commission.” Mr. Bemba … Continue Reading

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Judges Explain How Victims Can Provide Evidence in Bemba Trial

Trial judges have issued guidelines for victims participating in the Bemba trial who may wish to provide evidence to the court. Any such evidence will be given before the start of the defense case, and the victims’ lawyers have to file their applications by December 6, 2011.

Judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki, explained the procedures to be followed by the legal representatives if they wished to seek leave to present evidence or for individual victims to present their views and concerns to the chamber, in an order dated November 21, 2011.

More than 1,860 victims are participating in the trial of Congolese senator Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he faces war crimes and crimes … Continue Reading

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Thousands More Apply to Join Bemba’s Trial as Victims

With more than 1,600 victims already participating in the trial of Congolese senator Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC), additional applications exceeding 3,000 are being processed by court organs.

The Victims Participation and Reparations Section (VPRS) of the court on August 26, 2011 informed judges that as many as 2,830 applications were expected to be filed over the course of the coming months. Trial judges Sylvia Steiner, Kuniko Ozaki, and Joyce Aluoch have approved a plan by the VPRS to finalize submission of these applications to the chamber in batches of 200 to 350 by January 13, 2012.

Last July, the number of victims participating in the trial rose to more than 1,600, following the approval of 301 applications. Since … Continue Reading

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Q&A with the Executive Director of the Trust Fund for Victims Pieter W.I. de Baan

Pieter W.I. de Baan is the Executive Director of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He agreed to speak with the Open Society Justice Initiative last month and answer questions about the work of the Trust Fund and its role in assisting victims of mass atrocities. This article also appears on websites monitoring the trials of Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui as welll as the ICC Kenya proceedings.

Jennifer Easterday: What does the Trust Fund for Victims do?

Pieter W.I. de Baan: The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV or Trust Fund) is the first of its kind in the global movement to end impunity and promote justice. It supports activities which address the harm resulting … Continue Reading

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Gone but Not Forgotten: Bemba and Congo’s 2011 Presidential Elections

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

As Congolese head to the polls on November 28, 2011 to elect a new president, the front-running opposition candidate in the previous election, Jean-Pierre Bemba, sits in a jail cell in Schevingen in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bemba has not, however, taken his incarceration to mean that he should be sidelined and has pushed his own candidacy. The fact that he has done so from an ICC … Continue Reading

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Can Bemba Run For Congolese President From His ICC Jail?

While the International Criminal Court (ICC) strives to get into its custody the two indicted heads of state, one of the inmates in the court’s detention center is bent on becoming his country’s president. How he plans to manage his presidential campaign from his cell in Scheveningen, the Netherlands, remains to be seen. Equally uncertain is whether Congolese electoral officials would permit him to stand in the November poll.

For now, Jean-Pierre Bemba is set on being the presidential candidate for the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). At the weekend, the political party gave him its nod, after he wrote to its top officials beseeching them to name him the flag-bearer. However, there are seeming insurmountable odds stacked against … Continue Reading

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The Doctrine of “Command Responsibility” in the Bemba Case

 Dear Readers – This article is a summary of a paper published by the author in French in the Belgian Review of International Law. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative 

By placing the Jean-Pierre Bemba case in its context, and then in the judicial history of the theory of command responsibility that originated from the Yamashita case, this article addresses some of the shortcomings of the Bemba confirmation of charges decision. More information on the doctrine of command responsibility in the trial of Bemba is available here.

In examining Bemba’s mental state, also known as the mens rea, the article argues that the finding of the Pre-trial Chamber … Continue Reading

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Bemba Fronted For Congolese Presidency in November Polls

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese opposition leader on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has been named by his party as its flag-bearer in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s presidential poll due in late November.

At the time the elections will be conducted, Mr. Bemba, 48, is scheduled to still be on trial at the Hague-based court. He is likely to open his defense in the war crimes trial early next year, and the earliest date judges could announce a verdict is still more than a year away.

Over the weekend, the Movement for Liberation of Congo (MLC), the party that Mr. Bemba founded, announced that he would be their candidate in the elections, where incumbent Joseph Kabila will stand for re-election. … Continue Reading

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Victims Participating in Bemba Trial Now Reach 1,600

The number of victims participating in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has risen to 1,620 after judges approved another 307 applications last week.

Judges rejected 23 applications, while another 70 applications will be decided upon once additional information is provided. In a July 8, 2011 ruling, the Trial Chamber, presided over by Judge Sylvia Steiner, set September 16, 2011 as the deadline for submission to the court’s Registry of any new victims’ applications for participation in the trial.

Of all trials taking place at the ICC, Mr. Bemba’s has the largest number of participating victims. In Thomas Lubanga’s trial, there are 118 participating victims, while in the joint trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, judges have granted 365 victims … Continue Reading

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Q&A With ICC Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda: Part II

This is the second part of a two-part interview with International Criminal Court (ICC) Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The Deputy Prosecutor answers questions about rape as a weapon of war and how the victims are having an impact on the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Wakabi Wairagala: From the accounts heard so far, and bearing in mind that this is the first case at the ICC where a charge relating to the use of rape as a weapon of war is preeminent, in what ways did the MLC use rape as a tool of war in CAR? How widespread was the problem, and from what witnesses are saying, what was the main motivation for the MLC to carry out these rapes?

Fatou Bensouda: … Continue Reading

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