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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 and Status Conference: 22 April - 3 May 2013

In the week commencing 22 April, one witness testified: Witness D04-39 (Defence witness), a former high-ranking official of the MLC. The witness testified by video link from the DRC, under protective measures - with face and voice distortion.

22 April 2013
The Defence commenced its examination-in-chief of Witness D04-39 led by Mr. Aimé Kilolo-Musamba. The witness provided insight on: 

  • Functions of Bemba as Supreme Commander: The witness stated that in his role as Supreme Commander of the MLC between 2001 and 2003, Bemba was the moral and political authority of the armed wing.
  • Structure of directives, instructions and orders: However, according to the witness, the line of demarcation between command levels of the MLC was not completely clear, and the Supreme Commander could do as he wished.
  • Composition of the General Staff of the MLC: According to the witness, the General Staff in 2001-2003 was composed of: the Chief of General Staff current major Amouli Dieudonné; the G1, Colonel Jean Pierre Wabo Bitakuya, in charge of administration and discipline; the G2, Colonel Bakalombé, in charge of intelligence and military security; the G3; the G4, current Colonel Konzoli, in charge of logistics; the G5, whose name the witness could not recall, in charge of social and ideological matters; the Medical Advisor, whom the witness did not name; and the Artillery Advisor, whom the witness did not name.
  • Chain of command in the ALC[1]: The witness stated that during the period from 2001 to 2003, the official chain of military command was followed in the ALC.
  • Operations led jointly by Bemba and the witness: The witness said that he and Bemba led a few operations together, which the witness said were not MLC operations at the time. The witness specified that there were two or three operations in assistance to the RCD[2] and at Nia-Nia road[3] and one or two operations towards Bangui.
  • Crossing of MLC troops into the CAR: The witness stated that units crossed the border into the CAR once in 2001 and once in 2002. [4] According to the witness, during a meeting between ALC officials and their counterparts in Kinshasa, two battalions were selected to go to the CAR with their commander General Mustafa, under the command of the CAR authorities.
During cross-examination of Witness D04-39 led by Prosecution lawyer Mr. Shkelzen Zeneli, the witness provided insight on:
  • Deployment orders: The witness stated that the role of the G3 was to advise the Chief of General Staff of the MLC on operational matters such as deployment of troops, but that orders to deploy ALC troops came from the Chief of General Staff.
23 April 2013
The Prosecution commenced its cross-examination of Witness D04-39 led by Mr. Shkelzen Zeneli.  The witness provided insight on:
  • The witness’s presence and personal knowledge of ALC events: The witness stated that he was not present in Gbadolité (DRC) from October 2002 to the first half of November 2002, nor from mid-February to mid-April 2003, during which times the order to deploy ALC troops in the CAR and the order to withdraw the troops from the CAR were allegedly given. However, the witness stated that his office staff and colleagues continued to operate in the ALC headquarters at the times when he was not physically present, and they made him aware of the issues discussed in his testimony.
  • Sun City Agreements: The witness stated that he was present when the Sun City 2 Agreement[5] was signed. The witness stated that the date of that agreement was between April 12 and 17, 2003. When asked by the Prosecution if the Agreement was actually signed on 17 December, 2002, as listed in a Defence document, the witness agreed that the signing was in fact on 17 December, 2002.
  • Instructions and directives given by Bemba to commanders in the field: The witness stated that Bemba allegedly gave operational directives to the Chief of General Staff and to Lieutenant-Colonel Freddy Ngalimo, but not operational orders. The witness stated that operational orders must include precision in coordination of time, movement, and means.
  • Operational command of ALC units in the CAR: The witness stated that while units were in the CAR they were temporarily cut off from their usual MLC chain of command and were instead under operational control of the General Staff of the CAR.
  • Instructions given by Bemba to commanders in the CAR: The witness stated that if, hypothetically, units in the CAR had received orders from Bemba, they would have had to tell their Central African commanders about those orders. The witness stated that if, hypothetically, General Mustafa had received instructions from Bemba, he would not refuse those instructions.
  • MLC use of Thuraya satellite telephones: The witness stated that he had a Thuraya phone, given to him by the regional commander in Goma, when he was integrated into the National Army, but did not have one during his time in the ALC. The witness stated that if the ALC soldiers had Thurayas they could have communicated with Gbadolite, but he did not know how many Thurayas were in use by the MLC at the time.
  • Bemba’s use of satellite telephones: The witness stated that Bemba had a satellite phone in his home and a Thuraya mobile phone.
  • ALC units that crossed the border to the CAR: The witness stated that 2 battalions crossed into the CAR under General Mustafa in October 2002, but that later a third battalion crossed over. The witness stated that he did not know the specific month in which the third battalion crossed, but that it was during one of the periods (between October and November 2002 or February and April 2003) in which the G3 was going between Gbadolite and South Africa.
  • Chain of command for discipline of ALC troops in the CAR: The witness stated that the responsibility for discipline of ALC soldiers in the CAR began with the chief of each section or platoon, who would report to the company leader, who in turn reported to the battalion leader (General Mustafa). Mustafa who would then take action or report further to higher authorities. According to the witness, above General Mustafa was the Chief of General Staff of the CAR.
24 April 2013
During cross-examination of Witness D04-39 led by Prosecution lawyer Mr. Shkelzen Zeneli, the witness provided insight on:
  • Bemba had no command responsibility in the CAR: The witness stated that Bemba had no responsibility or authority regarding discipline of MLC troops in the CAR and was not involved in the command of units in the CAR.
  • Arrest of MLC soldiers in the CAR: The witness stated that Bemba did not have the authority to arrest soldiers in the CAR. If any soldiers were arrested in the CAR, according to the witness, it would have been on the orders of the operational commander in the CAR, General Mazzi.
  • Inconsistency in testimony: The witness stated that in January 2003 when the third battalion was sent across to the CAR, the G3 was in Gbadolite. The Prosecution stated that this was a change in testimony from the day before, when the witness had said that the G3 was not in Gbadolite at that timeJudge Aluoch pointed out that the question was very broad, which could have led to inconsistencies.
  • Source of rumours of alleged MLC crimes: The witness stated that he had heard rumours of alleged MLC crimes in the CAR over Radio France Internationale (RFI) broadcasts. According to the witness, he listened to RFI occasionally during and after operations in the CAR.
During questioning of Witness D04-39 led by Legal Representative for Victims Mr. Assingambi Zarambaud, the witness provided insight on:
  • Agreement to send ALC troops to CAR: The witness stated that to his knowledge there was no written agreement between the CAR and the MLC when MLC troops first crossed the border, but that there must have been some kind of agreement under which two ALC units were placed under operational command of the CAR. The witness stated that his only knowledge of this matter was from what was reported to him.
  • Women and children among ALC troops: The witness stated that there were no minors in the ALC army to his knowledge. He stated that there were women soldiers, but he did not know whether any of them carried babies with them.
  • Reports of pillaging and rapes by MLC soldiers: According to the witness, he heard on the radio about alleged pillaging and rapes by MLC troops but did not know which soldier had done what, when, or to whom.
  • Trial of MLC troops: The witness stated that he was informed of the trial in Gbadolite of some soldiers who had committed crimes in the CAR, but that he was never privy to information on the outcome of the trial.[6]
  • Involvement of Bemba in operations in the CAR: According to the witness, the ALC commander on the ground in the CAR could inform Bemba about operations in the CAR but not report to him or receive orders from him.
Questioning by the Judges:
  • Judge Aluoch asked the witness to clarify, when the witness stated on Monday that Bemba would have had to fulfil certain obligations or conditions in order to have control over ALC units in the CAR, which obligations or conditions he would have had to fulfil: The witness answered that in order to command operations in the field one must have real-time intelligence and the capacity to react as fast as possible, synchronizing all units at one time. According to the witness, Bemba did not fulfil these conditions and therefore did not have power of command.
  • Judge Aluoch asked who had requested that Bemba hand over his power of command in the CAR: The witness answered the transfer of command power was at Patassé’s behest, because Patassé requested the presence of the troops.
  • Judge Steiner read a message from the Sector Commander of Gemena/Zongo to the Chairman on 26 October, 2002, about a group of 151 soldiers who had crossed over to Bangui. She then asked whether, when the witness mentioned a group of 10 officers with escorts who crossed into the CAR on that same day, this was the same group referred to by the Sector Commander: The witness stated that this was the same group, and that each officer would have brought 10 to 15 men with them, to form a company. Although Judge Steiner quoted the message from the Sector Commander mentioning that the group had “the will and ability to fight,” the witness stated that to his knowledge, based on what his staff and colleagues told him, this group crossed to Bangui only to make an assessment.

25 April  - 2 May 2013
No Hearings

Status Conference
3 May 2013

On 3 May the Chamber held a status conference to discuss the continuation of the presentation of evidence by the Defence. The Chamber had decided on 29 April 2013 that the testimony of witness D04-56 was to be by video link, and that it was the right of the Chamber to decide on the modalities of testimony, but that witness D04-56 had allegedly refused to testify by video link. This and issues of protection and practicalities for the witness’s testimony were addressed.


 
[1]  The ALC (Armée de Libération du Congo) is the military branch of the MLC.
[2] Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) - was a rebel group operating in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It became a political party in 2003.
[3] The witness did not specify dates for these operations. When asked by the Prosecution during cross-examination the following day, the witness could not recall the date of the operation at Nia-Nia.
[4] On the following day the witness testified that two battalions crossed with General Mustafa in October 2002 and another battalion was sent in as reinforcement in late 2002 or early 2003.
[5] Also known as the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement, and signed by the DRC government, the RCD, RCD/N, RCD/ML, and the MLC, the Sun City 2 Agreement was “a power-sharing agreement which helped unite the main opposing forces in a transitional government under a transitional constitution. It also provided for demilitarization, the withdrawal of foreign troops and the disarmament of the militias, as well as the organization of free and democratic elections” (UNHCR, Refugees, Number 145, Issue 1, 2007, p.13).
[6] The witness did not specify the date or any other information about the trial.

 
 
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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