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
Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates are charged with committing offenses against the administration of justice under article 70 of the Rome Statute during the Bemba I trial in 2013. The trial opened in September 2015.
Case status: 
Trial
Regions: 
Africa
Former Congolese vice-president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and four associates are 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.
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.

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