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Informal weekly summary of ICC courtroom activities in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Bemba Case


Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo: born in 1962 in Bokada, Equateur Province; national of the DRC; alleged president and commander-in-chief of the Mouvement pour la libération du Congo (Movement for the Liberation of the Congo) (MLC).

Situation: Central African Republic
Case: 01/05-01/08 - The Prosecutor vs. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo
Hearing: Trial Proceedings
Chamber: Trial Chamber III- Judge Sylvia Steiner (Presiding Judge), Judge Joyce Aluoch and Judge Kuniko Ozaki
Parties: OTP - Ms. Bensouda, Ms. Kneuer and team
Defence:  Mr. Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, Mr. Peter Haynes and team
Credit: ICC-CPI
Participants: 5229 victims represented by
Legal Representatives for Victims: Ms. Marie Edith Douzima-Lawson and Mr. Assingambi Zarambaud
Alleged crimes: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is allegedly responsible, as military commander, of:
  • Crimes against humanity: Murder and rape.
  • War crimes: Murder, rape and pillaging.
Start of Trial: 22 November 2010

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Weekly Summary of Proceedings 26 - 30 August 2013

This week four Defence witnesses (
Witness D04-25 , Witness D04-36, Witness D04-29 and Witness D04-30) testified from an undisclosed location under protective measures – with face and voice distortion. The majority of testimony was give in closed session.

26 August 2013
The Defence commenced its examination of Witness DO4-25 (Defence witness). The witness provided insight on:
  •  Presence of security for Mr. Bemba when he was in Gbadolité[1] during the conflict in the CAR from October 2002-March 2003: The witness stated that when Mr. Bemba was at his office, a member of Mr. Bemba’s personal security[2] would be stationed there. Also, that when Mr. Bemba held meetings in his office with other members of the MLC[3] or with foreign dignitaries, Mr. Bemba’s personal security would not be present in the room unless Mr. Bemba asked them to be present.  However, that where Mr. Bemba met with people he did not know, then two or three members of Mr. Bemba’s personal security would be present in the room.
  • Mr. Bemba’s means of communication during the October 2002-March 2003 conflict in the CAR: The witness stated that the communications devices available for Mr. Bemba at Mr. Bemba’s residence were radio sets, cellular phones and what the witness called “Motorolas”. The witness further stated that Mr. Bemba also made use of the ‘Communications Center” in Gbadolité[4] to receive messages.
  • The number of times Mr. Bemba travelled to the CAR during the October 2002-March 2003 conflict in the CAR: The witness stated that Mr. Bemba travelled to the CAR three times; on 25th/26th of October, by ferry in early November 2002 to meet former CAR President Patassé and by Mr. Bemba’s private airplane on the 25th of December 2002 en-route to Gbadolité. 
  • The possessions of MLC soldiers at the end of the October 2002- March 2003 conflict in the CAR: The witness stated that the Chief of General Staff of the MLC and the officer responsible for intelligence services in the MLC told him that they had received a vehicle from former CAR President Patassé as a token of thanks for their services in the conflict. 
The Prosecution commenced its cross-examination. The witness gave most of his testimony in private session. In open session, the witness provided insight on:  
  • Mr. Bemba’s means of communication during the October 2002-March 2003 conflict in the CAR: The witness clarified that Mr. Bemba had a radio set, “Motorolas”, a satellite box and satellite phones (Iridium make and Thuraya make). However, the witness stated that the persons who headed the two branches of the MLC were not in the possession of a satellite phone.
  • The role of Mr. Bemba during the October 2002-March 2003 conflict in the CAR: The witness stated that Mr. Bemba was not in charge of any MLC military operations because Mr. Bemba was a civilian and therefore not in a position to be in charge of military operations.

27 August 2013
The Prosecution continued its cross-examination of Defense witness D04-25 (Defence witness). The witness provided insight on:
  •  Mr. Bemba’s visit to the CAR in early November 2002 during the October 2002-March 2003 war in the CAR: The witness stated that in early November 2002, himself, other members of Mr. Bemba’s personal security and Mr. Bemba visited former CAR President Patassé and then went with Patassé to visit CAR soldiers at camp Beyal. The witness however stated that he did not think Mr. Bemba wanted to meet the CAR soldiers, that Patassé requested Mr. Bemba to meet the CAR soldiers and that Mr. Bemba had simply gone to the CAR to see Patassé.
  • Bemba’s unplanned visit to PK12[5]. The witness also stated that in early November himself, other members of Mr. Bemba’s personal security and Mr. Bemba also made an unplanned visit to MLC soldiers’ camp in PK12. Again the witness stated that that he believed that the idea to visit the MLC soldiers in PK12 came from Patassé rather than Mr. Bemba because the visit to PK12 was spontaneous and not in Mr. Bemba’s agenda. The witness added that during this visit to PK12, Mr. Bemba addressed the troops there.  
  • The implications of the award of the title “Major General” to Mr. Bemba: The witness stated that the award of Major General to Mr. Bemba was simply a honorary title and that Mr. Bemba was not a soldier. The witness further stated that rather, Mr. Bemba was a civilian supreme commander of the ALC and that although Mr. Bemba was given military stripes, it did not mean Mr. Bemba was a military commander. Furthermore, that although Mr. Bemba previously stated that he received some military training, that training did not amount to military training due to its very short nature.  
During examination by the Legal Representatives for victims (Mrs. Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson and Mr. Assingambi Zarambaud), the witness provided insight on:
  • Mr. Bemba’s involvement in the war in the CAR from October 2002- March 2003: The witness stated that Mr. Bemba neither issued orders to nor received reports from his commanders in the field. The witness stated that rather, all reports about events happening during the CAR war went to the MLC Chief of General Staff.
  • Mr. Bemba’s knowledge of a trial in Gbadolité involving the prosecution of MLC soldiers for their acts of abuse towards civilians during the October 2002-March 2003 war in the CAR: The witness stated that the MLC’s National Secretary responsible for justice organized this trial and that Mr. Bemba was aware of the trial. 
During re-direct examination by the defence, the witness provided insight on:
  • Mr. Bemba’s attire whilst he was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the October 2002-March 2003 war in the CAR:  The witness stated that during the time he worked with Mr. Bemba and during the CAR war, Mr. Bemba never wore military uniform in Kinshasa and that Mr. Bemba only wore military attire when Mr. Bemba went to see MLC soldiers.
Defence witness D04-36 commenced his testimony in closed session.

28 August 2013
The Defence continued the examination of witness D04-36. During the examination, the witness provided insight on:
  • Alleged pillaging committed by Bozizé’s soldiers in PK12 in October 2002: The witness alleged that on 26 October 2002 Bozizé’s forces retreated from PK12 and took sugar, cane food and generators that they loaded in trucks. 
  • No personal connection between Jean-Pierre Bemba and the witness: When asked by the Defence if the witness had a connection with Jean-Pierre Bemba, the witness stated that he had never met, talked to or seen Jean-Pierre Bemba. 
The Prosecution commenced its examination of witness D04-36. During cross-examination, the witness provided insight on:
  • Killings allegedly committed by MLC troops in Bangui in October 2002: The witness claimed that he did not see MLC troops killing people in Bangui in October 2002.
During examination of witness D04-36 by the Legal Representative for Victims, Mr. Assingambi Zarambaud, the witness provided insight on:
  • The conduct of Congolese troops in PK12 in October 2002: The witness stated that he had no knowledge of what Congolese troops did in PK12 in October 2002.
During examination of witness D04-36 by the Legal Representative for Victims, Ms. Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson, the witness provided insight on:
  • Rapes, abduction and pillaging allegedly committed by Bozizé’s rebels in Bangui in October 2002: The witness alleged that Bozizé’s troops arrived in the area of Bangui on 25 October 2002 and committed rapes, abductions and pillaging.
The Defence commenced its examination of witness D04-29. The witness provided insight on:
  • Alleged beating and rape committed by Bozizé’s soldiers in Bangui in October 2012: The witness allegedly saw Bozizé’s rebels on 26 October 2002 as he went to rescue his wife, who had allegedly been captured by five of Bozizé’s rebels. As the rebels saw the witness, they started allegedly attacked him. Meanwhile, the witness’s wife alleged that three of the soldiers had raped her. The witness stated that he recognised one of the soldiers and had a conversation in Lingala[6]in which the witness explained that the woman captured was his wife and as a result she was released. A month after the attack, the witness’s wife went to the hospital in Damara[7] and her mother-in-law advised her not to complain about the rape. The witness stated that, other than the Bozizé’s soldier he recognised, the other rebels all spoke Sango[8] and they were dressed in CAR army uniforms. 
  • Crimes allegedly committed by Bemba’s troops: The witness allged that he heard on the radio that several ‘crimes’ were perpetrated by Bemba’s troops in CAR. However, the witness stated that there should not be only one person tried for the crimes committed during the 2002-2003 war period in CAR.
29 August 2013
The Prosecution commenced its cross-examination of witness D04-29. During cross-examination, the witness provided insight on:
  • Alleged pillaging, rape and killings committed by MLC troops in CAR between October 2002 and March 2003: The witness stated that MLC troops were also called Banyamulenge[9]. During the CAR war in 2002-2003, the witness heard, through the national radio RFI, reports of rapes, killings and pillaging allegedly committed by Banyamulengue namely in the area of Batalimo[10] in October 2002.
During examination of witness D04-29 by the Legal Representative for Victims, Mr. Assingambi Zarambaud, the witness provided insight on:
  • Alleged abduction, rapes, looting and killing perpetrated by Bozizé’s rebels in CAR: When asked by Mr. Zarambaud if Bozizé’s soldiers could have been able to carry goods such as refrigerators looted from CAR population, the witness replied that he did not see Bozizé’s soldiers carrying goods.
During examination of witness D04-29 by the Legal Representative for Victims, Ms. Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson, the witness provided insight on:
  • Responsibility of Bozizé’s rebels in the commission of crimes in CAR between October 2002 and March 2003: The witness stated that the Bozizé’s forces occupied the cities of Sibut[11], Damara and Buka[12] and he alleged that rapes, looting and pillaging were committed there. As a result, some people from the cities fled to the forest. The witness was of the view that Bozizé should be brought before the International Criminal Court because he alleged his soldiers committed crimes in CAR during the 2002-2003 period.
Comments made by the witness after his testimony:
  • The witness stated that the ICC brought democracy to Africa. However, the witness was of the view that the ICC focused only on one or two individuals and that is a disappointment for him. Finally, the witness hoped that there would be reparations for him and his family.
30 August 2013
The Defence commenced its examination of witness D04-30. The witness provided insight on:
  • Knowledge on the arrival of Bozizé’s soldiers in Bangui in October 2012: The witness stated that, as she heard the sound of an explosion October 2012, she was aware of the arrival of Bozizé’s soldiers in Bangui.
  • Alleged rape of witness: The witness made clear she wanted to testify about the alleged rape she went through at the hands of Bozizé’s soldiers rather than talk about their arrival in Bangui in October 2012.
Because of the witness not feeling well and problems of transmission, the hearing was suspended and was to resume on Monday 2 September 2013 with the examination of witness 30.

 

[1] Gbadolite is the capital of the Nord-Ubangi District in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the District in which Mr. Bemba resided.
[2] Mr. Bemba’s private security escort was known as the “Department for Presidential Security”. According to the witness, Mr. Bemba’s personal security comprised four “Detachments” of approximately 100 troops. Furthermore, that each “Detachment” comprised an “Intervention Unit” and a “Close Protection Unit”-the ‘Close Protection Unit comprised a group of 10 troops that would be around Mr. Bemba on a daily basis. 
[3] “Movement for the Liberation of Congo” or “The Mouvement pour la Liberation du Congois a political party in Democratic Republic of the Congo- a party which Mr. Bemba lead.
[4] Gbadolite is the capital of the Nord-Ubangi District in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is the District in which Mr. Bemba resided. 
[5] PK12 stands for Point Kilomètre 12, a suburb of Bangui.
[6] Lingala is a Bantu language spoken primarily in the northern area of the DRC.
[7] Damara is a city on the Route Nationale from Bangui to Sibut.
[8] Sango is a Central African language widely spoken in Bangui.
[9] Banyamulenge is a historical term describing the ethnic Tutsi Rwandans and refers to MLC troops.
[10] Batalimo is a city of Central African Republic.
[11] Sibut is a city on the Route Nationale situated to the North East of Bangui.
[12] Buka is a city of Central African Republic. 
 

This is an informal and unofficial summary of the trial hearings. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the CICC is not responsible for any omissions or inaccuracies contained within the following summary, which is provided for informational purposes only.

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