The Trial for the ICC’s First Contempt Case Closes

by Rita Yip

Jean-Pierre Bemba GomboOn Tuesday 31 May 2016, the closing statements in the first contempt case tried before the International Criminal Court (ICC), The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, will be made publicly and are expected to last three days.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo – the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo – and four other accused are charged for offences against the administration of justice under Article 70 of the Rome Statute. The Prosecution alleges that the accused collectively engaged in a scheme to corruptly influence, illicitly coach and bribe fourteen defence witnesses for false testimony during the trial of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo between 2011 -2013.

The five accused were arrested in November 2013 and were detained at the United Nations Detention Unit in The Hague for almost one year. On 21 October 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber granted interim release to the four accused – except Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who remained in custody since 2008.

The trial hearings before the Trial Chamber VII commenced on 29 September 2015. The Prosecution called 13 witnesses and the five Defence teams collectively called six witnesses, including experts in the field of audio recordings, Austrian law and African solidarity.

The closing statements are expected to last three days. The Prosecution and the Defence teams will present its arguments and respond to the others parties’ arguments articulated in their closing submissions filed on 24 May 2016. Two of the accused – Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s former Defence Lead counsel and Fidèle Babala Wanda, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo’s political associate, have been granted the request to give an unsworn statement during the closing statements.

Earlier this year, on 21 March 2016, Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) for crimes that were committed in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

ICC and The Netherlands: Free the Three Congolese Witnesses NOW!

by Göran Sluiter

ICC detention Centre

The ICC detention Centre

This blog is generally the place for academic reflection and analysis, but this posting -I am aware- also may be perceived as having the nature of an (emotional) appeal to both the ICC and the Netherlands.

Representing the three Congolese witnesses in their asylum procedure in the Netherlands -together with colleagues Van Eik and Schüller- I fully and openly declare an interest. That said, it is my conviction that the fate of the three Congolese witnesses in ICC detention has reached the level of absurdity and requires urgent attention.

Those who are not very closely following the ICC express great suprise when I inform them that there are witnesses being detained at the ICC Detention Unit. The starting point and legal basis for the witnesses’ detention lies in art. 93 (7) of the Statute. It is indeed a logical and welcome arrangement to facilitate the testimony of witnesses detained in a State party to have their detention temporarily continued at the ICC.

However, in respect of three Congolese defence witnesses an unprecedented situation arose when they applied for asylum in the Netherlands, because, among other things, they fear reprisals by DRC President Kabila in case of return to the DRC. The witnesses had in their testimonies in the Katanga and Ngudjolo trials implicated Kabila in the commission of international crimes in the DRC. Continue reading