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: 3 - 7 December 2012

In the week commencing 7 December 2012 defense witness D04-066 completed his testimony. The Witness is a businessman from the Equateur Region of the DRC. He had contact with the MLC in the past and during the 2002-2003 conflict but fearing for his life he fled to Kinshasa in March 2003. The witness testified under protective measures with face and voice distortion.  

Weekly Summary 3 - 7 December 2012

3 December 2012

The Prosecutor cross-examined witness D04-066. The hearing was held in open session, however, private session was employed frequently during questioning.
  • Refugee status and conducting business between the CAR and the DRC: The witness confirmed he had the status of political refugee in the CAR during the conflict and at the same time was conducting business between the CAR and the DRC and could cross over between the two countries without any problem, even though the status of refugee make it illegal for him to return to the DRC.
  • Trading activity stopped upon Bozizé gaining power: The witness conformed that he stopped any business within the CAR when he left the CAR on 15 March 2003, when Bozizé came to power.
  • Contradiction in witness’ testimony: The prosecution asked if the witness still has family in the CAR and if it was unusual from someone to the DRC to have family there. The witness answered he had family in the CAR and that it was not unusual. The prosecution pointed out that the witness had answered differently when asked the same question by the Defense last week. The witness denied it was the same question.
  • Contact with the Defense team and motivation for testifying: The witness explained that the Defense lawyer Mr Kilolo had contacted him 'in March' [1], following which he had a brief interview of 15-20 minutes with him in Brussels and that he had not seen him again until the day he arrived in The Hague to testify.
  • Witness not a member of MLC: The witness said he was not a member of the MLC and had nothing to do with the political or military aspects of the MLC intervention.
  • Reasons for testimony: The witness said he came to testify because he was in Bangui at the time of the events and provided food supplies to the soldiers, and in he had relevant knowledge about what happened.
  • No Relationship with Bemba: The witness specified he does not personally know Bemba’s family members and has no contact with them. He also explained that if he sometimes calls the accused “Bemba” or “Jean-Pierre”, it is just “his way of speaking”.
  • Conditions of departure from the CAR: The witness explained that the word “Banyamulenge” refers to a tribe from the DRC, and that those leading the MLC troops (like General Mustafa) identified themselves as Banyamulenge, therefore all soldiers who came with them were also called Banyamulenge.
  • Crossing to DRC: The witness said that he already knew on 14 March 2003 that the Banyamulenge had planned to do the crossing to the DRC the next day. Indeed, the witness had met with some Banyamulenge leaders the day before, who paid for his service and told him they were leaving the next day.
  • Fleeing the CAR: The witness also confirmed that he and other tradesmen with whom he was working all fled the CAR on the same day. “I believe we all fled”. According to the witness, the Congolese who were living in the CAR could be under threat after 15 March 2003, they were told “the situation would be difficult”.
  • Witness departure not due to MLC abuses: The witness testified that the departure of the tradesmen was not forced because of abuses committed by the MLC troops. Rather, it was because of trade jealousy and business competition between the two countries.
  • MLC commanders: The witness testified that he conducted business with Mustafa Mukiza, Commandant René and Commandant Seguin: MLC troops. He was however unable to give more information regarding their names or their dates of arrival and departure in the CAR. He could only tell the Court that Commandant René had passed away. The witness did not know any other MLC officers or officers' names.
  • No Knowledge about the alleged crimes committed by the MLC troops: The witness repeatedly stated he did not see and he did not hear anything about alleged crimes by the MLC troops when he was in the CAR. He was based in Bangui and did business travels to Damara and PK55[2] but he never heard about any crimes against the population, except one alleged incident of pillaging by Bozizé’s rebels.
  • Alleged crimes by Bemba’s troops: It was only when Bemba was arrested that the witness heard for the first time about alleged crimes committed by his troops.
  • Bemba visit to Bangui: The witness confirmed that Bemba visited Bangui some time between December 2002 and February 2003, but he did not see Bemba himself and he did not know the purpose of Bemba’s visit.

4 December 2012
The Legal Representatives for Victims, Maitre Douzima-Lawson and Maitre Zarambaud  questioned witness D04-066. The hearing was held in open session, however, private session was employed for the majority of the questioning.
  • Crossing of the Oubangui river by the MLC troops: The witness confirmed he was present when the MLC troops crossed and arrived in the CAR on 30 February 2002. He did not see any children or women among those soldiers.
  • Occupation of civilian homes by MLC soldiers: The witness testified that he had never heard of MLC soldiers occupying civilian homes.
  • Knowledge about the alleged crimes committed by the MLC troops: The witness confirmed he does not read newspapers. 
Judicial Questioning:
Presiding Judge Steiner enquired how the witness could have been doing his business normally while a civil war was taking place and how he could not have heard anything around him which was going on. The witness replied that he was not interested in communications and Bangui was pretty “calm at the time”.

Judge Aluoch also questioned the witness on second-hand knowledge he could have had about alleged crimes committed by the MLC troops, but the witness maintained he never heard anything about crimes being committed.

5, 6 & 7 December 2012
No Hearings

[1] The witness stated that this happened ‘in March’ but an exact time or date was not specified.
[2] Point Kilomètre 55.
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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