International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

At Appeal Hearing, Defense Lawyers Say Bemba Was Denied a Fair Trial

On Tuesday, January 9, lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba argued at an appeal hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo was denied a fair trial and his exculpatory evidence was unjustifiably dismissed, leading to his conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III convicted Bemba of crimes committed 15 years ago in the Central African Republic (CAR). At the hearing, defense lawyer Peter Haynes faulted trial chamber judges for allowing the prosecution to access privileged communication between Bemba and his lawyers and for receiving evidence from the prosecution without allowing Bemba to offer his side of the story.

Haynes said the prosecution made several ex parte … Continue Reading

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Key Issues in Bemba’s Appeal Hearing Against ICC Conviction

Did former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia have an organizational policy to attack civilians? And did the nature and scope of the attacks warrant their classification as crimes against humanity? These are among the key issues that will be addressed during an oral hearing in Bemba’s appeal against conviction for crimes committed 15 years ago. The hearing is scheduled to begin on January 9 and will last up to five days.

In March 2016, Trial Chamber III at the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Bemba – the former head of the MLC – of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in failing to punish or deter his troops who committed … Continue Reading

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Judges Decline to Suspend Reparations Process in Bemba Case

A defense appeal to suspend reparations proceedings in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese opposition leader who is serving an 18-year prison sentence, has been rejected by International Criminal Court (ICC) judges. The judges disagreed with the defense lawyers’ claim that it was premature to continue with the reparations process when the Appeals Chamber was considering Bemba’s appeal for acquittal.

In the May 5 ruling, trial chamber judges determined that the court’s founding law and rules of procedure allowed reparations proceedings to take place in parallel to a pending appeal. Bemba is appealing both his March 2016 conviction and the sentence handed down last June.

The prosecution and victims’ lawyers had asked judges to throw out the defense’s request, arguing that, … Continue Reading

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ICC Judges Hand Bemba €300,000 Fine, Defense Lawyers Get Suspended Sentences

Jean-Pierre Bemba has been handed the heaviest penalty among the five individuals sentenced today for tampering with witnesses at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Judges also issued suspended sentences for Bemba’s two former lawyers and also imposed monetary penalties on two of those convicted.

The former vice president of Congo was sentenced to one-year in prison and fined €300,000, which he has to pay within three months. His former lead defense counsel, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, was fined €30,000, also payable in three months, and handed a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years, suspended over three years. The two fines shall ultimately be transferred to the Trust Fund for Victims.

Judges ruled that the time Bemba’s four associates spent in pre-trial detention should be … Continue Reading

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Sentencing in ICC’s First Witness Tampering Trial Due Tomorrow

Tomorrow, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver the sentences of five individuals convicted of tampering with defense witnesses who testified in the trial of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The five, who include Bemba, were convicted last October on various charges in the first trial under Article 70 of the court’s Rome Statute, which relates to offenses against the administration of justice. In the conviction decision, judges found that the five intentionally corruptly influenced 14 defense witnesses and presented their false testimonial evidence to the court.

Delivery of the decision on sentencing is scheduled for 11:00 local time in The Hague in open court. Judges ordered all the accused to be present in the courtroom. Bemba’s four associates have been on conditional … Continue Reading

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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