Four Arrested for Witness Interference in Bemba Case
Bemba and members of defence team among those suspected of presenting false or forged evidence and bribery
ICC press release: "On 23 and 24 November 2013, the authorities of the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) acting pursuant to a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Cuno Tarfusser, the Single Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC), arrested four persons suspected of offences against the administration of justice allegedly committed in connection with the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. This warrant of arrest in respect of the same charges was also served on Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC’s detention centre, where he has been detained since 3 July 2008.
On 20 November 2013, Judge Tarfusser issued a warrant of arrest for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, his Lead Counsel Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo (a member of Mr Bemba’s defence team and case manager), Fidèle Babala Wandu (a member of the DRC Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo), and Narcisse Arido (a Defence witness).
Judge Cuno Tarfusser found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that these persons are criminally responsible for the commission of offences against the administration of justice (article 70 of the Rome Statute) by corruptly influencing witnesses before the ICC and presenting evidence that they knew to be false or forged. The suspects, it is alleged, were part of a network for the purposes of presenting false or forged documents and bribing certain persons to give false testimony in the case against Mr Bemba.
The Belgian authorities arrested Aimé Kilolo Musamba, the Dutch authorities arrested Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, and Narcisse Arido was arrested by the French authorities, in response to requests for arrest and surrender from the ICC. They will be subsequently surrendered to the ICC in accordance with the judicial procedures applicable in the three countries. Fidèle Babala Wandu was arrested by the authorities of the DRC and is being transferred to The Hague. The date of his first appearance at the ICC will be announced shortly. The authorities also cooperated with the ICC for the purposes of searching locations connected to the suspects. The Single Judge of the Pre-Trial Chamber II further requested the States concerned to locate and freeze the suspects’ assets.
On behalf of the Court, the Registrar of the ICC, Herman von Hebel, expressed his gratitude to the States’ authorities for their cooperation, stating that these are the first arrests made in relation to such charges before the ICC.
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the alleged President and Commander-in-Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo, started on 22 November 2010, for two counts of crimes against humanity (rape and murder) and three counts of war crimes (rape, murder and pillaging) allegedly committed in the Central African Republic."
Statement of the ICC Prosecutor: "[...] The individuals arrested include, amongst others, members of the defence team of Mr. Bemba. It is particularly disturbing that a member of the legal profession is alleged to have intentionally and systematically participated in criminal activities aimed at undermining the administration of justice.
Article 70 of the Rome Statute stipulates that it is a criminal offence for anyone to, inter alia, attempt to corruptly influence witnesses or tamper with evidence, or present evidence known to be false or forged. If convicted, those found responsible for these crimes may face up to five years imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
I am extremely grateful for the excellent cooperation received from all States involved in facilitating the smooth execution of the arrests and related investigative operations.
Justice must be allowed to take its course. This warrant of arrest must serve as a warning to would-be perpetrators that my office will not hesitate to bring the full force of the law to bear against cynical - criminal - attempts to deny victims of massive crimes the justice they deserve."
Four Arrested for Witness Tampering in ICC Case, VOA, 24 November
See our Bemba webpage for more information on the case.
RELATED NEWS COVERAGE
Lawyer for former Congo vice president Bemba accused of presenting false evidence in ICC trial, Global Post, 24 November
Aides of DR Congo war crimes suspect held for witness tampering, Global Post, 24 November
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