International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Judge Rejects Prosecution Bid to Have Costs of Bemba’s ICC Trial Revealed

An International Criminal Court (ICC) judge has rejected a prosecution request to order the court’s Registry to reveal the costs incurred on trying former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba. Whereas the prosecution wanted to use this information in its submissions on sentencing, Judge Bertram Schmitt concurred with defense lawyers that the request was made prematurely, so he did not consider its merits.

Judges are yet to deliver a judgment in the case where Bemba and four others – including two of his former defense lawyers – were tried for coaching and bribing 14 witnesses to provide false evidence. The witnesses testified in Bemba’s main trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, for which he is appealing the conviction and 18-year prison … Continue Reading

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Judge Orders Legal Aid for Bemba in Witness Corruption Case

A judge has ordered the Registry at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to advance legal aid to Jean-Pierre Bemba until the court issues a final decision on the former Congolese vice president’s financial status. The judge’s decision follows an appeal by a defense lawyer who claimed the team had reached a point where “it has absolutely no funding.”

During the trial period in his evidence tampering case, the Registry found Bemba partly indigent and provided him some legal aid. However, from July 1, 2016, the Registry cut off all support to Bemba, as the case went into the deliberations stage.

In an August 30 order, Judge Bertram Schmitt faulted the Registry for cutting Bemba’s legal assistance without asking judges how long the … Continue Reading

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Bemba Faces Rising Financial Burdens at the ICC

Jean-Pierre Bemba is facing difficulties in paying lawyers representing him against witness tampering charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to a refusal by an organ of the court to advance him sufficient resources to maintain his legal team. The court froze the Congolese businessman-turned-opposition leader’s assets eight years ago.

In an August 12 filing, defense lawyer Melinda Taylor says with effect from July 1, 2016, legal aid was cut off completely in the witness tampering trial, “even if the case entered into a possible appellate stage.” The defense has reached a point where “it has absolutely no funding,” said Taylor as she requested judges to order the court’s registry to advance legal aid to the accused on a provisional basis.

Meanwhile, … Continue Reading

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Bemba Contests 18-Year ICC Sentence, Prosecutor Seeks Longer Jail Term

Jean-Pierre Bemba has filed a notice of appeal against the 18-year prison sentence handed to him by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges last June. However, the prosecution has also indicated its intention to appeal the sentence, with a view to asking judges to raise the sentence for the former rebel commander who was earlier this year convicted over the rape, murder, and pillaging committed by his soldiers 14 years ago.

In a July 22 notice, Bemba’s lawyers indicated intent to appeal against “the whole decision” on sentencing. “For reasons that will be provided in its document in support of the appeal, the Defense requests that the Appeals Chamber reverse and reduce Mr. Bemba’s 18‐year sentence,” the notice by defense lawyer Peter … Continue Reading

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Bemba Given 18-Year Jail Sentence at ICC

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba has been sentenced to 18 years in jail following his conviction for failing to prevent his troops from committing crimes. The sentence is the longest ever to be handed out at the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has so far convicted three individuals.

Judge Sylvia Steiner, who presided over Bemba’s trial that opened in November 2010, said the crimes of rape, pillaging, and murder committed by Bemba’s soldiers were of “serious gravity,” and were committed with particular cruelty against defenseless civilians. She also said at the sentencing hearing that Bemba did not genuinely intend to take all reasonable measures to repress the commission of crimes. Instead, his actions were means to counter public allegations and … Continue Reading


Bemba Sentence to be Delivered on June 21

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Congolese vice president who was convicted for failing to deter crimes by his soldiers, will have his sentence handed down by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges on June 21. According to an order by judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki, the sentence will be delivered in The Hague at 13:45 Central European Time during a public hearing.

Whereas prosecutors have asked for a minimum of 25 years in jail, his lawyers have argued that the time the Congolese politician has already spent in jail is proportionate to the crimes he was convicted for.

Bemba, 51, has been in ICC detention since June 2008. His trial opened in November 2010, and earlier this year judges convicted … Continue Reading

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Indicted Bemba Lawyer Tells ICC Judges He Didn’t Know Witnesses Were Lying

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the defense lawyer on trial for allegedly bribing and coaching witnesses to provide false testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC), has denied knowing that witnesses were giving false evidence.

“Nothing suggested to us or to me that the witnesses were lying about the events they were describing or their participation in the events,” said Kilolo in an unsworn statement. “All the counsels, all the legal assistants were convinced that these witnesses were clearly credible, clearly relevant.”

Kilolo was addressing judges as part of the final oral statements in the trial that started last September. He is being tried alongside former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, his former case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Congolese legislator Fidèle Babala Wandu, and … Continue Reading

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Bemba Has Served His Sentence, Defense Lawyers Tell ICC Judges

Lawyers for former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba have asked International Criminal Court (ICC) judges to hand him a light sentence, arguing that the eight years he has spent in detention are proportionate to the crimes he was convicted of.

“He has not only reached but long ago passed the time when his sentence should have ended,” said defense lawyer Peter Haynes, at today’s sentencing hearing. Bemba, who has been in ICC detention since July 2008, was found guilty last March of failing to suppress the commission of rape, murder, and pillaging by his troops who were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003.

Bemba himself was in Congo at the time 1,500 of the more than 20,000 … Continue Reading


Criticism and Compliments for Bemba’s Troops at Sentencing Hearing

During hearings conducted before International Criminal Court (ICC) judges decide Jean-Pierre Bemba’s sentence (following his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity), divergent viewpoints were heard on the conduct of his troops. A clergy commended Bemba’s troops for protecting civilians in Congo, but two victims recounted rape ordeals at the hands of these fighters when they were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Bishop Fridolin Ambongo, the head of the Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission in Congo, said the arrival of Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops in that country’s Équateur province brought peace and stability for civilians. The residents had previously suffered at the hands of government troops, who looted and destroyed “everything” in the … Continue Reading

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Defense Lawyer on Trial at ICC for Witness Tampering to Make Unsworn Statement

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the former lead defense lawyer for Jean-Pierre Bemba, will make an unsworn oral statement before judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the hearing of closing statements in the witness tampering trial against him, Bemba and three others. Fidèle Babala Wandu, a Member of Parliament and former aid to Bemba when he was vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is also expected to make an unsworn oral statement in hearings scheduled to commence on May 31, 2016.

In a May 12 ruling granting their requests to make unsworn statements, Judge Bertram Schmitt said he would not “circumscribe” what Kilolo and Babala can say in their one hour long statements. However, he rejected a request by … Continue Reading

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