International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Former Central African President Patassé is Dead

Ange-Félix Patassé, the former Central African Republic (CAR) president, who invited Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops into the country during the 2002-2003 conflict, passed away earlier this month. His death came before the International Criminal Court (ICC) had closed its investigations into those who could be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to that conflict.

Moreover, throughout last week, the Prosecutor-General of the CAR told Mr. Bemba’s trial at the ICC that a judicial probe he led concluded that Mr. Patassé bore command responsibility for the mass rapes, killings, and looting conducted by Mr. Bemba’s soldiers as they helped the head of state fight a coup attempt.

According to various media reports, Mr. Patassé, 74, died on April 5, 2011, … Continue Reading

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Should Bemba Be Released on Bail

Jean-Pierre Bemba wants to be released on bail, but the prosecution is opposed and his legal team has so far been unable to win his release, despite numerous attempts. Lisa Clifford, a journalist and commentator specializing in issues of justice and human rights in central Africa, considers the issues.

Why does the prosecution object to Bemba’s bail?  

There are two main arguments against release – that Bemba might flee or that he might intimidate witnesses and obstruct court proceedings.

The start of the trial and the dismissal by judges of Bemba’s challenge to the admissibility of the charges against him makes it more likely he would run if released, prosecutors say. They add that Bemba knows the names of all prosecution witnesses and … Continue Reading

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BEMBA TRIAL HINGES ON COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY

Dear readers – Below find a report written by Lisa Clifford, a journalist and commentator specialising in issues of justice and human rights in central Africa. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

“If you unleash the dogs of war you have to put in place control mechanisms to prevent the dogs of war getting out of control.”

That’s how lawyer Stephen Kay describes the doctrine of command responsibility, the idea that leaders both military and civilian are responsible for the acts of their subordinates.

The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba – accused of failing to control his troops in the Central African Republic – is the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) … Continue Reading

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Will the Big Fish be Cooked? Congolese Reactions to the Start of the Bemba Trial

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 the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba started in The Hague on November 22, Kinshasa was abuzz with the news. Newspapers carried the story as front page news. “Bemba Giving Up His Ex” cried the full page cover of Le Soft, while La Prosperite read “Bemba Faces the Judges.” Congolese television broadcast the opening statements in their entirety and radio outlets offered an overview. All in all, there was a serious mobilization … Continue Reading

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What the Bemba Trial Means to Victims

As the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba gets underway, political analysts will go into overdrive about what the case means for the fragile peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, many will see this as a crucial test of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) ability to deliver justice in a region whose politics is inextricably linked to bloodshed and instability. 

For those of us who support the notion — as articulated in the founding principles of the Court — that there can be no peace without justice and even for those with an ideological commitment to the Court, it is difficult to deny that there are a number of problematic elements in the case against Bemba. The primary problem is … Continue Reading

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The ICC Takes on Gender Crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been operational since 2002, yet victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide are still awaiting the court’s first judgment. The court as a whole has been hammered most recently for its slowness, for missteps in its first trial—the Lubanga case, and for not always showing gender sensitivity or, arguably, even gender competence in a few instances. 

As the trial of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba opens in The Hague for crimes committed in the Central African Republic, the ICC has a chance to demonstrate its ability to hold a high profile and speedy trial meeting minimum fair trial standards and to prove that it takes sex crimes very seriously. 

The Bemba trial is … Continue Reading

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BEMBA DEFENSE OVERWHELMED BY VICTIMS’ APPLICATIONS

The defense for former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba says it is overwhelmed by the number of victims applying to participate in his trial, which opens next week at the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

In filings to judges, the defense team states that it is so “entangled” in studying the victims’ applications that it can hardly find time to plan for the opening of the long-awaited trial. Information released by judges this week indicates that so far, 135 victims have been allowed to participate in the Bemba trial, and an additional 1,200 applications are being processed.

These numbers are significantly higher than those registered in the two trials currently being conducted by the ICC. In Thomas Lubanga’s trial, there are 103 participating … Continue Reading

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Command Responsibility and the Trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba

The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba will examine what happened in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 26, 2002 and March 15, 2003.  But in order to convict Mr. Bemba, the prosecution will not only have to prove that civilians and other protected persons were victims of crimes.  Prosecutors will have to establish that Mr. Bemba is criminally responsible for the alleged crimes, as well as prove to the judges that Mr. Bemba had a particular relationship to the forces who directly committed the alleged crimes in CAR.  In short, the prosecution will seek to prove that Mr. Bemba had “command responsibility” for these crimes.

What is command responsibility?

Command responsibility is the legal liability of a commander or civilian superior … Continue Reading

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A First Look at Opinions on the Trial in the Central African Republic

This website exists to increase understanding of the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba and issues related to the trial.  But we also want to bring to our readers the views of those most affected by the events that are the subject of the trial, and who may be affected by the work of the ICC in this particular case.  What does the trial of Mr. Bemba mean to them?  How do they view the ICC?  Last year, the Open Society Justice Initiative asked journalist Katy Glassborow to approach people in the Central African Republic (CAR) with these and other questions.  Some media reports from CAR have also offered insights.  This is not a comprehensive survey of public opinion in CAR, but … Continue Reading

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Views from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Jean-Pierre Bemba stands accused of committing crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR), but because he is a prominent figure in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), many people there, too, have strong opinions about his trial at the ICC.  It is difficult to summarize opinions about anything in the DRC in a way that takes full account of the country’s great size and diversity.  But as the trial of Mr. Bemba gets underway, we will attempt a first look at some of the commonly expressed Congolese views on the ICC and this particular trial.

Opinions on international justice and the ICC

The people of the DRC have had more experience with the ICC than those of any other country.  All … Continue Reading

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