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: 4121 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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Summary of proceedings: 17-28 September 2012 and Status Conference of 2 October 2012

In the week commencing 17 September 2012, two witnesses testified: Witness D65 Prosper Ndouba, spokesperson of President of Patassé and the spokesperson for the office of the CAR and witness D04-07 (under protective measures).

However, hearings between 24 and 28 September 2012 were cancelled, as it became apparent that the witness previously testifying could not be located and that another witness had not appeared in the Court as scheduled.

The Chamber therefore held a status conference on 2 October 2012 to discuss developments related to the defense witnesses.

Weekly Summary 17 - 21 September 2012

17 September 2012
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) continued its cross examination of witness D65 Prosper Ndouba, an expert in strategic studies and geo-politics

  • Alleged Inconsistencies in witness’ testimony: The OTP questioned the witness about inconsistencies between his testimony given in the Court last week and a book he had written about his captivity (published in 2006).
  • Inconsistencies in Language spoken by Bozizé rebels: During last week’s hearings, the witness stated that he had heard Bozizé’s rebels speak Chadian Arabic, Sango[1] and broken French. Before the Court today, the witness stated, that in PK12[2] some of Bozizé’s rebels spoke Lingala amongst themselves "so that they would be taken for MLC troops and not rebels."
  • Meeting with Mustafa Mukiza: During his testimony in the previous week the witness explained that after his release from Bozizé rebels in December 2002, he had a meeting with General Mustafa Mukiza, commander of Bemba’s troops, and was asked to provide military intelligence.
  • Meeting with General Ferdinand Bombayake: The witness explained that in Bangui he also met with Ferdinand Bombayake, former Presidential security chief in the CAR, who did not ask any questions about Bozizé’s rebels.
  • Alleged Inconsistencies regarding forces in Bangui: According to earlier testimony from the witness, no other armed forces were present in Bangui at the time of his abduction and throughout 38 days of captivity. However, in his book the witness recounts hearing talk amongst his captors that MLC forces had taken up positions in the capital on the evening of 25 October 2002. The witness attributed this inconsistency to “rumours” that were circulating at the time.

18 September 2012
The OTP concluded its questioning of witness D65 Prosper Ndouba and the Legal Representatives of the victims (LRV), Ms Marie Edith Douzima-Lawson and Mr Assingambi Zarambaud, questioned the witness.

  • Question about subjective testimony: The OTP questioned the witness on his personal feelings, impartiality and objectivity following his abduction and subsequent loss of his job when Bozizé gained power. The witness answered that it was ‘just human to have hard feelings towards Bozizé’. However, he added that his testimony is a true account of the events as he experienced them.
The Legal Representatives for Victims commenced examination of defence witness (D65) Prosper Ndouba.
Questioning by LRV - Assingambi Zarambaud:
  • The witness’ knowledge of the presence of MLC troops: At the time of the witness’ abduction, no MLC troops were, according to the witness, present in Bangui. According to the witness, he did not encounter MLC troops before his release on 1 December 2002 and he was not aware of any crimes or abuses committed by Bemba’s troops because he did not have access to radio news reports during the 38 days he was held hostage.
Questioning by Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson on previous testimony:
  • Witness’ knowledge on crimes allegedly committed by MLC: The witness was questioned on crimes allegedly committed by MLC, referring to the witness’ testimony from Monday 17 September 2012 where he testified that, while listening to a short wave radio with a poor sound quality upon his release, he had heard members of parliament criticising Patassé for bringing in troops with soldiers “who’s behaviour was not good”
  • Patassé’s mandate to call for MLC troops in CAR: The witness explained that Patassé had to call in MLC forces given that he was making use of the special powers that Patassé felt were conferred on him by the constitution of the CAR.
  • General Bombayake’s role: When asked if he knew General Bombayake’s role, the witness answered that General Bombayake at was the Presidential security chief in the CAR.
19 September 2012
The Defense commenced its examination of defence witness D04-07 (under protective measures).
  • Witness’ role in FACA forces: The witness is a former intelligence officer in the FACA[3] forces and throughout his testimony he gave details of the logistic support and allowance provided by Central African authorities to the MLC troops who were deployed in the CAR during the 2002-2003 armed conflict. Furthermore he stated that the MLC troops received orders from Central African commanders.
  • The arrival of the MLC troops into Bangui: The witness testified that there was an exchange of fire between the FACA soldiers and Bozizé’s rebels for 4-5 days before the arrival of the MLC troops who crossed into Bangui aboard a ferry belonging to the Central African transportation service SOCATRAF[4].
  • Appearance of MLC troops: The troops were, according to the witness, dressed in civilian clothes but were soon after arrival provided with FACA uniforms, ranger boots, ammunition, vehicles, and communication equipment.
  • Monthly payment and daily subsistence allowance: The witness stated that the MLC soldiers received a daily subsistence allowance of 2.500 Central African Francs which was greater than that received by a FACA soldier.
  • MLC communication: The witness testified that Central African authorities provided Bemba’s troops with satellite communications devices (allegedly personally handed over by General Bombayake) to facilitate their operations beyond PK 12, as they moved towards Damara.
  • How the MLC gathered intelligence on Bozizé’s rebels: The witness stated that the MLC gathered information about the strengths, weapons and positions and so on of Bozizé’s rebels in the CAR from the Center for Command Operations (OCCP) at which the joint operations were coordinated.
  • The behavior of Bozizé’s rebels: The witness alleged that Bozizé’s rebels were uncontrollable, aggressive, threatened people, seized property to get supplies, and raped women. The witness also alleged that anyone who tried to stop the rebels would be shot at.

20 September 2012
The OTP began its examination of the defence witness D04-07:

The witness was cross-examined by the OTP almost exclusively in private session, with brief periods in public session recalling testimony from the previous day.

Order given by Presiding Judge Steiner: Before adjourning the hearing, Presiding Judge Steiner ordered the Victims and Witness’s Unit (VWU) to carry out an assessment of the physical and psychological well being of ‘Witness D04-07’, however a reason for this order was not given.

21 September 2012
The OTP continued its examination of defence witness D04-07.

  • MLC communications The OTP asked the witness if he was aware that MLC troops used their own communications devices in the CAR. The witness stated that he did not know and he maintained his statement that the MLC troops and the FACA troops communicated on the same radio frequency.
  • Cooperation between MLC and FACA: When questioned if the MLC soldiers and the FACA soldiers worked side by side, the witness answered “of course”. The witness referred to a joint operation, led by FACA General Bombayake under the assistance of MLC General Mukiza, to drive Bozizé’s rebels out of Damara on 20 November 2002.
  • Mukiza quoted as stating that MLC had been “abandoned” by FACA: The OTP presented excerpts of a communication log (addressed to the MLC’s chief of general staff at their headquarters in Congo, dated 30 October 2002), in which General Mukiza was quoted as stating that his troops had been “abandoned” by the Central African authorities, that there was no coordination between them and other loyalist forces and that there was a lack of communications equipment to facilitate operations. When asked to comment on this log, the witness claimed that he did not know how to answer.
  • Language spoken by the MLC: The witness was asked about the language spoken by the MLC soldiers. He replied that he spoke French with them and that they spoke French as well as Lingala[5] amongst themselves.
24 September 2012 – 28 September 2012
Hearings Cancelled
2 October 2012
Status Conference

  • Disappearance of Witness D04-07: Presiding Judge Steiner stated that for reasons unknown for the Chamber, witness D 04-07 did not present himself to continue giving testimony on Monday 24 September 2012. The Registry was informed that the witness had left his accommodation during Sunday evening 23 September 2012.
  • Non-Appearance of new Witness D04-11 (under protective measures): The testimony of witness D04-07 was to be followed by the testimony of witness D04-11. However, the Chamber was informed that the witness did not board the plane to take him to the Hague.
  • Decision to partially waive protective measures for both witnesses: The whereabouts of the two witnesses is currently unknown. However it was decided on 25 September 2012 to partially waive the protective measures granted to witness D 04-07 in order to provide the relevant authorities with his profile.
  • Proposal by Chamber to use video link testimony: To avoid similar problems with future witnesses, the Chamber suggested the option of questioning witnesses through video link or trial in situ.

The Status Conference continued with comments from the Defense, the Prosecution and the Registry. 
  • Comments by the Defense: The Defense recalled that it still had intended to call 59 witnesses and that the majority of these witnesses would be ready to appear before the Court immediately. The Defense believed that the witnesses could testify under normal circumstances, as they are located in Europe and do not have any specific travel and visa requirements. However, some witnesses maintained concerns regarding their family members located in their home countries. The defense therefore stressed the importance of psychological care to be provided to vulnerable witnesses.
  • Comments by the Registry: The Registry expressed its recognition of the need for cooperation between the Registry and the Prosecutor, the Defense and the Legal Representatives in order to solve witness issues.
  • Comments by the Prosecution: The Prosecution highlighted that it is ready to assist the Chamber with the solutions proposed by the chamber (video links, trials in situ or other solutions) and that they are aiming to contribute to solving the current problems, and maintaining a clear record on responsibility for witnesses. The Prosecution stated that there was a need for clarity in what had occurred with the two witnesses. The Prosecution also mentioned a report from the Registry indicating that there was a link between the two witnesses.

[1] Sango is the primary language spoken in the Central African Republic.
[2] PK12 (point Kilometre 12) is a suburb of Bangui where the Prosecutor claims some of Bemba‟s alleged crimes took place.
[3] FACA: Central African Armed Forces
[4] The company SOCATRAF is responsible for transportation and shipment operations, notably along the Oubangui and Congo rivers, between Bangui (CAR), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Brazzaville (Congo). The company plays a vital role in the economy of the Central African Republic, supplying the country with petroleum products, totaling nearly 50,000 MT of fuel each year, meeting 80% of national needs.
[5] Lingala is a language spoken throughout the north-western part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as to some degree in the 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.
Copyright © 2012 Coalition for the International Criminal Court, All rights reserved.

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