International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Legality of Communication Intercepts in the Spotlight at the ICC

The legality of interception of communications by International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators and Dutch authorities is being challenged as part of appeals filed by Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four associates, who were last October convicted for witness tampering. All five – whose sentences will be delivered later this month – are appealing the convictions.

In a February 14, 2017 submission to appeals judges, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo’s lawyer claims his conviction “rested decisively” on telephone surveillance that was authorized on the basis of financial records reviewed and obtained by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) without any judicial authorization. The lawyer, Christopher Gosnell, contends that the trial chamber erred in admitting information arising from the telephone surveillance. While describing the interceptions as … Continue Reading

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What Sentences Could the ICC Impose for Witness Interference?

In the next few months, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will hand down sentences for five individuals convicted of witness tampering. Those awaiting sentencing are former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, his two former lawyers, a close associate who is also a Member of Parliament in Congo, and a former witness in Bemba’s war crimes trial at the court.

The case of Bemba and his associates is the first such case tried by the ICC. There are other cases of corruptly influencing witnesses at the ICC, such as that of Kenyans Walter Barasa, Paul Gicheru, and Philip Kipkoech Bett, for whom the court issued arrest warrants. There have also been allegations of witness interference in seven cases that have … Continue Reading

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One Witness to Testify at ICC’s First Witness Tampering Sentencing Hearing Next Week

The prosecution will call one witness to testify at the sentencing hearing of Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four associates who were found guilty last October of witness tampering at the International Criminal Court (ICC). No witness will testify for the defense at the hearing scheduled for December 12-14, 2016.

In a November 11, 2016 decision on the sentencing hearing, judges Bertram Schmitt (presiding), Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, and Raul C. Pangalangan considered that hearing the live testimony of the proposed nine defense character witnesses “would constitute an inefficient sentencing presentation which might be disproportionate to the anticipated value of their evidence.” As such, judges directed that written statements be submitted for the defense character witnesses.

Bemba and his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo … Continue Reading

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Prosecutor Asks ICC Judges to Give Bemba Longer Prison Sentence

The prosecution has made the case for a longer prison sentence for Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was handed an 18-year jail term at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The prosecution argued that this sentence is disproportionate to Bemba’s culpability and the harm caused to victims of the crimes.

In the appeal document published on October 21, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asks judges to raise the prison sentence to at least 25 years. This was the same sentence the prosecution proposed in sentencing submissions last May.

Last June, Bemba was sentenced to 18 years for rape, 16 years for murder, and 16 years for pillaging. However, judges ruled that the sentences be served concurrently. Bemba, who was commander-in-chief of the Movement … Continue Reading


Bemba and Four Associates Convicted for Witness Tampering

Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba alongside four associates, who include two of his former defense lawyers, have been convicted in the witness bribery trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their sentences will be announced at a later date.

Upon conviction for offenses against the administration of justice covered by Article 70 of the court’s Rome Statute, judges may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine, or both. Today judges ordered that those convicted, besides Bemba, would remain on conditional release pending the determination of their penalties.

Bemba and his former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo were found guilty of corruptly influencing 14 witnesses – D-2, D-3, D-4, D-6, D-13, D-15, D-23, D-25, D-26, D-29, … Continue Reading


Verdict to be Delivered Tomorrow in First ICC Witness Tampering Trial

Tomorrow, judges will deliver the judgment in the first witness corruption case handled by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  The verdict in the trial in which there are five accused individuals will be delivered in open court at 14:30 local time in The Hague.

The charges, under Article 70 of the Rome Statute, stem from the trial of former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR). Tried alongside him for corrupting 14 witnesses who testified in the main trial were Bemba’s former defense team lead Aimé Kilolo Musamba, case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, defense witness Narcisse Arido, and Congolese parliamentarian Fidèle Babala Wandu.

In confirming the charges against them, pre-trial judges … Continue Reading

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Bemba Lays Out Grounds for Appeal Against ICC Conviction

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba has laid out the grounds of appeal against his conviction by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges over his failure to punish his troops who committed rape, murder, and pillaging in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

In a 196-page appeal document filed on September 28, 2016, Bemba’s lawyers raise several fair trial issues, mostly related to access by prosecution officials to privileged defense communication and failure by trial judges to grant the defense an opportunity to respond to allegations of witness tampering.

Lead defense lawyer Peter Haynes also contests the conviction on the grounds that judges ignored crucial evidence submitted by the defense, failed to investigate allegations that prosecution witnesses had been bribed, … Continue Reading

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Verdict in ICC’s First Witness Tampering Trial Scheduled for October 19

The verdict in the first evidence tampering trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be delivered on October 19, according to an order issued today by judges. The judgement will be delivered in open court at 14:30 local time in The Hague.
Former Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, along with his two former lawyers Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo and two other associates, stand accused of bribing and coaching witnesses to provide false testimony to the court. These 14 defense witnesses testified in Bemba’s trial over rape, murder, and pillaging by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo troops. Earlier this year, Bemba was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison, but he is appealing both the conviction and … Continue Reading

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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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