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Bemba Trial Opening: Latest Media Statements and Related Coverage
22 Nov 2010
Please find below the latest information related to the trial against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo which opened at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this afternoon in The Hague (Netherlands).
This message includes the latest press releases issued by the Coalition and its members (I), statements by the ICC (II) and governments (III), as well as related news and opinions (IV) and audiovisual materials (V) regarding this development.
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is charged with command responsibility for crimes against humanity (rape and murder) and war crimes (rape, murder and pillaging) allegedly committed in Central African Republic (CAR) from 26 October 2002 to 15 March 2003.
Please note that the trial is web-streamed (with a 30-minute delay) on the Court's website at: http://livestream.xs4all.nl/icc1.asx
Please also take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the Coalition will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.
I. CICC STATEMENTS
1. "Bemba Trial Opens in The Hague: High Expectations Surround Trial Against Former DRC Vice-President For Alleged Crimes in the Central African Republic," Press release, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 22 November 2010, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/Opening_of_Bemba_Trial_CICC_22Nov10_EN.pdf
"The Hague - On 22 November 2010, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its third trial in the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for alleged crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR). The opening of the Bemba trial is yet another step forward in the Court's work to prosecute the gravest crimes, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court said today.
'Victims and civil society in the Central African Republic have long sought justice for the terrible crimes Mr. Bemba is accused of committing,' said William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition. 'The Coalition for the ICC will monitor the trial closely to ensure core principles are respected, including fair trial guarantees and the right of victims to participate in proceedings,' he added. 'The Coalition will support the Court in its efforts to bring the trial closer to victims and their communities, including relevant outreach activities. We also urge all organs of the Court to better explain and to make every effort to reduce the long delays between arrests and trials.'
Two years after Bemba's arrest, more than seven years after the commission of the alleged crimes and two postponements of the trial later, expectations are high around the Court's first and only case in its CAR investigation. 'The opening of the Bemba trial is a historical moment for victims from the Central African Republic,' said Lucille Mazangue from the Coalition of the Central African Republic for the ICC. 'Although the trial's many postponements were a setback for the victims, they still hope that the ICC will bring them justice,' Mazangue stated. She noted that the longer the trial takes, the greater the risk that evidence fades - notably with the passing of victims - and the greater victims' expectations can get. 'We hope that the Bemba trial will be held with due process and without any excessive delays,' she added.
Jean-Pierre Bemba is charged with command responsibility for crimes against humanity (rape and murder) and war crimes (rape, murder and pillaging) allegedly committed in CAR from 26 October 2002 to 15 March 2003. The prosecution has informed judges that 14 witnesses will testify as victims of rape and sexual violence or as experts on gender crimes.
'This trial breaks new ground for the ICC, with evidence of sexual violence comprising a significant part of the Prosecution's case, and as the first ICC trial to charge an accused for command responsibility for rape,' Brigid Inder, Executive Director of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice said. 'While we remain concerned by the Pre-Trial Chamber's decision to not confirm all the charges for sexual violence, we urge the Trial Chamber to admit evidence of the full range of harm suffered by victims/survivors of these crimes,' Inder added. 'The Bemba trial presents an opportunity for the Court to say firstly to women, that crimes of sexual violence are important enough to prosecute those who commit such acts; and secondly to leaders of armed forces and militias, that should they fail to prevent or punish subordinates for gender-based crimes, they will be held accountable.'
A groundbreaking feature of ICC trials is the right of victims to participate in judicial proceedings. 759 victims were authorized by Trial Chamber III to participate in the trial through their legal representatives, lawyers Marie Edith Douzima Lawson and Assingambi Zarambaud. The Chamber is currently processing further 1200 victims' applications. 'The number of victims applying to participate in this trial is unprecedented. Hundreds of victims of rape, murder and pillage have exercised their rights by requesting to take part in the proceedings,' said Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). 'FIDH welcomes the upcoming opening of this first trial on serious crimes committed in the Central African Republic as it will help to break the silence and the stigmatization of victims of rape, which was widely used as a weapon of war in the CAR. We hope this trial will shed light on the atrocities committed in the CAR in 2002-2003. We also plead strongly for the prosecution of others involved in the commission of crimes at the time, including other parties to the conflict,' she added.
Jean-Pierre Bemba was the President and Commander in chief of the 'Mouvement de Libération du Congo' at the time of the commission of the alleged crimes. He is also the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a senator in the DRC Parliament. Bemba is defended by lawyers Mr Nkewbe Liriss, Mr Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Mr Nick Kaufman.
The arrest warrant against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity was announced by the ICC on 24 May 2008, at the time of his arrest in Belgium. Bemba was transferred to the ICC's Hague detention centre on 3 July 2008. Following a number of status conferences and a three-day confirmation of charges hearing in January 2009, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, sending his case to trial.
The ICC's investigation in the CAR was opened by the Prosecutor on 22 May 2007, following a referral by the CAR government on 7 January 2005. The Bemba trial is the Court's third trial, with two other trials ongoing for Congolese warlords Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui...."
2. "Statement of the Central African Coalition for the ICC on the Occasion of the Opening of the Bemba Trial," Central African Coalition for the ICC (CCCPI), 18 November 2010, http://coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/BembaCommuniquedePress_CCCPI_Nov2010.pdf [French]
"The Central African Coalition for the ICC, comprising 11 members, welcomes the opening on 22 November 2010 of the trial of Jean Pierre BEMBA GOMBO by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands....
It is with satisfaction and relief that we will follow this trial with great attention; Relief for the many victims of which a large number are women; but also a strong signal to criminals past, present and future indicating that impunity is no longer tolerated in the Central African Republic.
To this end, the Central African Coalition for the ICC (CCCPI) supports the efforts of the court in relation to this long-awaited trial to see that justice is delivered.
At the same time, the CCCPI calls on the government of the Central African Republic to continue the cooperation already begun with the ICC for the proper conduct of this trial."
II. ICC STATEMENT
1. "Journalists in Bangui, Kinshasa and The Hague put questions to parties and participants in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo", International Criminal Court, 22 November 2010, http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/exeres/7BA1991C-707F-414F-AC34-9F15830ACA96.htm
"Today, at the beginning of the press conference at the seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the commencement of the trial in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the speakers stressed the paramount importance of respecting the rights of the parties and participants in the proceedings before the Court. The Registrar of the Court, Ms Silvana Arbia, stated that 'only through a fair trial can the law play its proper role in establishing lasting peace and fighting effectively against impunity for crimes which are [...] of concern to the international community as a whole and which deeply shock the conscience of humanity'.
>From the Court's offices in Bangui, the Central African Republic and Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, local journalists were able to put their questions to the parties and participants in the trial of Mr Bemba via video conference. The press conference was further enlivened by journalists in the Court's press briefing room at The Hague.
'Jean-Pierre Bemba used an entire army as a weapon to rape, pillage and kill civilians the Central African Republic. Today he is brought to account for deliberately failing to prevent, repress or punish mass atrocities committed by his men in CAR', stated the Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, adding that 'in the ICC era, this is the fate of military commanders who allow their troops to carry out such command tactics out of strategic considerations.'
'The victims deserve to receive justice and, especially, to participate in the judicial process', affirmed Ms Arbia. The legal representatives of the victims highlighted the Court's role in ending impunity and preventing the recurrence of atrocities. 'Never again', stated Ms Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson, legal representative of the victims, while Mr Assingambi Zarambaud said that 'no matter how long the night, the day is sure to come'. Ms Paolina Massidda, Principal Counsel of the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, which supports the teams representing the victims, stressed that what the victims want is to 'break their silence and break the silence of the world on the terrible events they experienced', which is a 'first step towards establishing the truth and gaining access to justice'.
Last to take the floor was Mr Bemba's Defence team, comprised of Mr Nkewbe Liriss, Mr Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Mr Nick Kaufman. It stated that 'under Patassé's presidency, the Central African State freely disposed of the Congolese troops of the MLC administration, who fought under its flag, and was accountable for their acts'.
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is alleged to be criminally responsible for having effectively acted as a military commander within the meaning of article 28(a) of the Rome Statute for crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) allegedly committed in the territory of the Central African Republic during the period approximately between 26 October, 2002 and 15 March, 2003."
III. GOVERNMENTS STATEMENTS
1. "Trial begins for former vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo", United Kingdom Foreign Office Statement, 22 November 2010, http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=154524682&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FcoLatestNewsRssFeed+%28FCO+Latest+News+RSS+feed%29
"Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham has spoken after the International Criminal Court (ICC) began trial proceedings against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.
'I am pleased that the very serious allegations against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo will be fully investigated in an independent and fair trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I also welcome the role that the victims of the crimes committed in Central African Republic will be able to play in the trial proceedings.'...
...The Court is now firmly established in the global judicial system and is fulfilling the mandate given to it by the international community to combat impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern."
IV. RELATED NEWS AND OPINIONS
1. "Ex-Congo VP Bemba to go on trial at int'l court", by Mike Corder, AP, 21 November 2010, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101121/ap_on_re_eu/eu_international_court_bemba
2. "Former DR Congo leader faces trial", Al Jazeera, 22 November 2010, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2010/11/201011226745545994.html
3. "Congolese warlord Bemba faces court", by Tijn Sadée, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 22 November 2010, http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/congolese-warlord-bemba-faces-court
4. "DR Congo leader goes on trial for troops' atrocities", AFP/France 24, 22 November 2010, http://www.france24.com/en/20101122-dr-congo-leader-goes-trial-troops-atrocities-0
5. "Congo ex-VP Bemba on trial in Hague for war crimes", by Aaron Gray-Block, Reuters, 22 November 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AL2UL20101122
6. "War Crimes Trial Begins for Congolese Politician", by Marlise Simons, The New York Times, 22 November 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/world/africa/23hague.html?_r=1&ref=world
7. "Bemba trial commences at ICC", The Hague Justice Portal, 22 November 2010, http://www.haguejusticeportal.net/eCache/DEF/12/286.TGFuZz1FTg.html
8. "Former Congolese Vice President Goes on Trial", VOA News, 22 November 2010, http://www.voanews.com/english/news/Former-Congolese-Vice-President-Faces-Trial-109850839.html
9. "Jean-Pierre Bemba denies ICC war crimes charges", BBC News, 22 November 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11808293
10. "Former Congo vice-president Bemba used 'rape as his method' of war", by David Smith, The Guardian, 22 November 2010, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/22/congo-vice-president-trial-war-crimes
11. "Congo's Bemba Pleads Not Guilty at ICC to War Crimes", by Michael J. Kavanagh, Bloomberg, 22 November 2010, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-22/congo-s-bemba-pleads-not-guilty-at-icc-to-war-crimes-update1-.html
12. "War crimes trial of Congolese militia leader begins at International Criminal Court", by Daniel C Giacopelli, OpenDemocracy.net, 22 November 2010, http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/security_briefings/221110
13. "Trial of former Congolese rebel Bembe to open in the Hague", DPA/Times Live, 22 November 2010, http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/article776428.ece/Trial-of-former-Congolese-rebel-Bembe-to-open-in-the-Hague
14. "Congo's Bemba claims innocence at International Criminal Court", by Linawati Sidarto, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 22 November 2010, http://www.rnw.nl/international-justice/article/congos-bemba-claims-innocence-international-criminal-court
15. "War crimes trial starts for former DRC vice-president Bemba", RFI, 22 November 2010, http://www.english.rfi.fr/africa/20101122-war-crimes-trial-starts-former-drc-vice-president-bemba
16. "Jean-Pierre Bemba's War Crimes Trial Starts Today", News Time, 22 November 2010, http://www.newstime.co.za/WorldNews/Jean-Pierre_Bembaâ€™s_War_Crimes_Trial_Starts_Today/15490/
17. "Ex-DRC leader's war crimes trial begins", UPI, 22 November 2010, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/11/22/Ex-DRC-leaders-war-crimes-trial-begins/UPI-47121290444837/
18. "War crimes trial of Congo's former vice president begins in The Hague", by Constanze von Kotze, Deutsche Welle, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6249263,00.html
19. "Bemba faces war crimes charges for rape and murder, pleads not guilty", BNO News, 22 November 2010, http://wireupdate.com/wires/12596/bemba-faces-war-crimes-charges-for-rape-and-murder-pleads-not-guilty/
20. "Militia leader accused of crimes against humanity goes on trial", CNN, 22 November 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/11/22/netherlands.militia.leader.trial/?hpt=T2
21. "Bemba pleads not guilty to war crimes at Hague trial", DPA, 22 November 2010, http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/europe/news/article_1600744.php/Bemba-pleads-not-guilty-to-war-crimes-at-Hague-trial
22. "Congolese rebel leader on trial in Hague court", Reuters, 22 November 2010, http://af.reuters.com/article/drcNews/idAFLDE6AL1S320101122?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true
V. AUDIOVISUAL RESOURCES
1. "Congo: Bemba faces trial for mass rape, murder", France24, 22 November 2010, http://www.france24.com/en/20101121-congo-former-vice-president-trial-war-crimes-bemba-central-african-republic-rape-murder
2. "DRC: Trial in The Hague: will the guilty pay?", France24, 22 November 2010, http://www.france24.com/en/20101122-congo-jean-pierre-bemba-trial-crime-international-criminal-court
3. Al Jazeera News Bulletin, 22 November 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2khLqYWQQ2Q
4. Opening Day Proceedings, provided by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 22 November 2010, http://www.rnw.nl/international-justice/article/congos-bemba-claims-innocence-international-criminal-court
5. "Congo rebel leader 'did not control troops'", Euronews, 22 November 2020, http://www.euronews.net/2010/11/22/congo-rebel-leader-did-not-control-troops/
CICC's policy on the referral and prosecution of situations before the ICC:
The Coalition for the ICC is not an organ of the court. The CICC is an independent NGO movement dedicated to the establishment of the International Criminal Court as a fair, effective, and independent international organization. The Coalition will continue to provide the most up-to date information about the ICC and to help coordinate global action to effectively implement the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Coalition will also endeavor to respond to basic queries and to raise awareness about the ICC's trigger mechanisms and procedures, as they develop. The Coalition as a whole, and its secretariat, do not endorse or promote specific investigations or prosecutions or take a position on situations before the ICC. However, individual CICC members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts.
Communications to the ICC can be sent to: ICC P.O. box 19519 2500 CM the Hague The Netherlands