International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

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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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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Q&A With Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Bemba Sentence, ICC Convictions as Deterrents, and Moves to Improve Efficiency of the Prosecutor’s Office

Earlier this month, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda answered questions from International Justice Monitor. She spoke about the 18-year jail term handed to Jean-Pierre Bemba, how the Bemba and Thomas Lubanga convictions could act as deterrents, and the challenges that come with investigating and prosecuting numerous charges such as in the case of Bosco Ntaganda and Dominic Ongwen. The prosecutor also discusses what her office is doing to become more efficient.

Wairagala Wakabi (WW): In the view of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), what is the significance of the Bemba conviction?

Fatou Bensouda (FB): The verdict sends a strong message to all commanders around the world: you will be criminally responsible for atrocity crimes of subordinate troops if you fail … 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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