ICC: Forthcoming Bemba Verdict Significant for Sexual Violence

Jean-Pierre Bemba during his trial (c) Reuters
Jean-Pierre Bemba during his ICC trial in 2013    © Reuters

The International Criminal Court (ICC) recently heard closing speeches in the case against former vice-president of the DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba. 

Bemba is charged with command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by troops from the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) when they went into the Central African Republic in 2003 to assist then-President Patassé with quashing a rebellion.

The Prosecution allege that the MLC troops were under Bemba’s effective command and control, that he knew or ought to have known that they were committing crimes, and that he failed to take steps to prevent the crimes or punish the soldiers.

Sexual violence has been a prominent part of the case against Bemba. Then-Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in his opening speech that:

“Women were raped systematically to assert dominance and to shatter resistance; men were raped in public to destroy their authority, their capacity to lead.”

According to the Prosecution, Bemba’s troops systematically raped, pillaged and murdered civilians in the CAR and committed hundreds of sexual assaults within a few days.

Defence counsel for Bemba, Peter Haynes QC, demanded Bemba’s acquittal contending that he did not receive information that crimes were being committed; that the troops fought under the command of CAR’s national armed forces and not Bemba; and that he tried to prevent the crimes.

iLawyer Guénaël Mettraux considers the judgment, which is due in 2015, to be a potential benchmark ruling, setting the standards by which political or military leaders will be held responsible for crimes committed by their subordinates:

“The decision might have relevance around the world because the ICC could very well set a precedent for other situations.”

Whilst sexual violence has been charged in other cases before the ICC, most famously in Lubanga and Katanga and Ngudjolo, all three defendants were acquitted on these counts.

The CAR continues to experience ongoing conflict and some observers are sceptical about the effect that the ICC judgment could have in the region. Patrick Vinck, researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Institute warns that the trial, which took place 10 years after the atrocities, is not only a failure of the ICC but a failure of the international community to help the CAR achieve peace.

ICC: Germain Katanga Discontinues Appeal

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

This Wednesday, Germain Katanga discontinued his appeal against his conviction before the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a letter signed by Katanga and his defence counsel, David Hooper, Katanga stated that he “accept[ed] the conclusions rendered against [him] in the judgement and [he] express[ed] [his] sincere regrets to all who were affected by [his] conduct, including the victims of Bogoro.”

Katanga had been convicted by a majority

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of Trial Chamber II on 7 March 2014 of one count of crime against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging)

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committed on 24 February 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was sentenced, again by majority, to 12 years’ imprisonment with credit for the time he has served whilst in detention in The Hague – 7 years to date.

The Prosecutor subsequently informed the Appeals Chamber that she also discontinued her appeal against the judgment and that she does not intend to appeal the sentence imposed on Germain Katanga.

The issue of reparations for victims will be considered next.

ICC Sentences Germain Katanga to 12 Years’ Imprisonment

Germain Katanga at the ICC today (c) ICC

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

Yesterday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Germain Katanga to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Katanga was convicted on 7 March 2014 by a majority of Trial Chamber II of murder as a crime against humanity and the war

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crimes of murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging. The majority held that Katanga had contributed to the commission of crimes by the Forces de Résistances Patriotiques en Ituri, an armed group operating in the DRC who carried out an attack against the village of Bogoro on 24 February 2003.

In his summary of the sentencing judgment, Presiding Judge Cotte highlighted the gravity and particular cruelty with which the crimes were committed, resulting in the deaths of numerous civilian victims including women and children. The Chamber considered that the crimes were also clearly committed on a discriminatory basis targeting the mainly ethnic Hema who populated Bogoro village at the time of the attack. Continue reading

ICC: Germain Katanga to be Sentenced on 23 May

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

Germain Katanga (c) ICC

This Tuesday, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will deliver the sentencing judgement in the case of Germain Katanga on 23 May 2014 at 09h30 (Hague time) in open court. Interested parties will be able to view the live webstream here.

Under Article 77 of the Rome Statute, the judges may impose a sentence of imprisonment as well as a fine or forfeiture of proceeds, property, and assets derived from the crimes. Sentences of imprisonment cannot exceed 30 years except when justified by the extreme gravity of the crime and the individual circumstances of the convicted person, in which case a sentence of life imprisonment may be imposed.

Germain Katanga was convicted by a majority of Trial Chamber II on 7 March 2014 of one count of crime against humanity (murder) and four counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) committed on 24 February 2003 during the attack on the village of Bogoro, in the Ituri district of the DRC. He was convicted as an accessory of contributing to the commission of crimes by members of the Forces de Resistance Patriotiques en Ituri through supplying arms and ammunition. Continue reading