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Jean-Pierre Bemba et. al. (Bemba II)

From left to right: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo, Jean-Jacques Magenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido. © ICC
On 2016 Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates were found guilty for committing offenses against the administration of justice under article 70 of the Rome Statute during the Bemba I trial in 2013. Imprisonment sentences were served.
Case status: 
Trial
Regions: 
Africa
Former Congolese vice-president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates were charged with witness-tampering during the 'Bemba I' trial in 2013. This is the first ICC case relating to offenses against the administration of justice under article 70 of the Rome Statute. The trial opened in September 2015. ​On October 2016, Trial Chamber VII found the five accused guilty of various offences against the administration of justice related to the false testimonies of defence witnesses in the case The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. Their sentences were delivered on 22 March 2017. The defendants appealed but on March 2018 their sentence were mostly confirmed. New sentences for Mr Bemba, Mr Mangenda and Mr Kilolo were pronounced on 17 September 2018. Convictions and acquittals in relation to all five accused are final. Imprisonment sentences were served.
Background: 

Alleged witness tampering during Bemba I trial

During the original ICC Bemba trial, which ran from 2010-16, the prosecution alleged a conspiracy to exert undue influence on several witnesses participating in the trial, including through monetary incentives and instructions to provide false testimony. Bemba himself was placed at the center of the conspiracy along with four associates: two senior members of Bemba’s defense team; a defense witness; and a Congolese parliamentarian.

Charges: 

Arrest warrants issued for Bemba and four associates

In November 2013, Pre-Trial Chamber II issued arrest warrants for Jean-Pierre Bemba, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo (members of Bemba’s defense team at the time of the alleged crimes), Fidèle Babala Wandu (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC) deputy secretary general), and Narcisse Arido (defense witness in the Bemba I case).

The arrest warrants alleged a conspiracy to present false or forged documents and bribe persons to give false testimony in the then-ongoing Bemba 1 trial. These are all offenses against the administration under article 17 of the ICC Rome Statute.

Witness interference charges confirmed

After all five accused had been detained, a confirmation of charges hearing took place in November 2014. Although the exact charges against each individual differ, as they are all said to have played different roles in the alleged conspiracy, and all face multiple article 70 charges.

Verdict: 

On 19 October 2016, Trial Chamber VII delivered its judgment and found the five accused guilty of various offences against the administration of justice, relating to the false testimonies of defence witnesses in the case The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Sentencing: 

On 22 March 2017, Trial Chamber VII delivered its decision on sentencing:

  • Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo was sentenced to one year imprisonment and EUR 300,000 fine.
  • Aimé Kilolo Musamba was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months’ imprisonment and EUR 30,000 fine. The time he spent in detention was deducted and the Chamber ordered the suspension of the remaining term of imprisonment for a period of 3 years so that the sentence shall not take effect (i) if Mr Kilolo pays the fine; and (ii) unless during that period Mr Kilolo commits another offence anywhere that is punishable with imprisonment.
  • Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment. The time he spent previously in detention was deducted. The Chamber ordered the suspension of the operation of the remaining term of imprisonment for a period of 3 years so that the sentence shall not take effect unless during that period Mr. Mangenda commits another offence anywhere that is punishable with imprisonment.
  • Narcisse Arido was sentenced in total to 11 months’ imprisonment. The time he spent previously in detention was deducted. Since the imposed sentence is equivalent to the period that Mr Arido spent in custody, the Chamber considered the sentence of imprisonment as served.
  • Fidèle Babala Wandu was sentenced in total to 6 months’ imprisonment. The time he spent previously in detention was deducted. Since the imposed sentence is less than the period of time Mr Babala spent in custody, the Chamber considered the sentence of imprisonment as served.

On 8 March 2018, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the convictions in respect of most of the charges. The convictions and acquittals in relation to the five accused are now final.

On 17 September 2018, following the Appeals Chamber Judgment, Trial Chamber VII delivered the sentences:

  • Mr. Bemba was sentenced to one year imprisonment and fined him EUR 300,000.
  • Mr. Kilolo and Mr. Mangenda were sentenced each to a total of 11 months of imprisonment.
  • Mr. Kilolo was also fined EUR 30,000.
Challenges: 

Interests of justice prevent re-arrest after interim release

Pre-Trial Chamber II ordered the temporary release of Kilolo, Mangenda, Babala and Arido in October 2014 and in January 2015 decided Bemba would have the same right were he not already standing trial. These release orders were overturned by the Appeals Chamber in May 2015 and the matter remanded to Trial Chamber VII. In August 2015, the Trial Chamber ordered the continued release of Kilolo, Mangenda, Babala and Arido. The Chamber noted too much time had elapsed to re-arrest the four defendants and also indicated the amount of time in custody prior to a final judgment in the case could become disproportionate to the maximum available sentence for crimes against the administration of justice should they be detained for the duration of the trial.

More voluntary cooperation agreements needed

Following the order for his temporary release, the ICC was challenged to identify a state both capable of and willing to host Mangenda, resulting in his late release. This underscores the importance of more states entering into interim release agreements with the ICC, which very few have done to date, to ensure defense rights are safeguarded.

Article 70 case reveals avenue for efficiency gains

At the November 2015 session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, the ICC president proposed an amendment to the Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) to permit a reduced number of judges on the pre-trial, trial and appeals benches in article 70 cases. Such an amendment would increase the Court’s capacity to try core crime cases and article 70 cases simultaneously. In February 2016, judges exercised their power to amend the RPE to permit the reduced judicial benches. It remains subject to approval by the Assembly