#GlobalJusticeWeekly – Bemba trial ends as witness-tampering charges confirmed

Jean-Pierre Bemba in an ICC courtroom in 2010. © REUTERS/Peter Dejong

Jean-Pierre Bemba in an ICC courtroom in 2010. © REUTERS/Peter Dejong

Closing statements were heard this week in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, with prosecutors asking judges to convict the former Congolese politician and defense counsel asking for an acquittal. Bemba is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002/03 by troops under his control.

The Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice welcomed the commencement of closing statements, calling the case groundbreaking for its inclusion of sexual and gender-based crimes.

Meanwhile, ICC judges confirmed charges of offenses against the administration of justice against Bemba and four of his associates stemming from witness-tampering allegations in Bemba’s trial. Judges declined to confirm other charges related to presenting forged or false documents.

More info:
Ten facts about the ICC Bemba case
Open Society Justice Initiative briefing paper

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council. © UN Photo

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council. © UN Photo

Prosecutor warns of instability, ongoing war crimes in Libya
On Tuesday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in Libya. Bensouda warned the Council that war crimes may still be occurring and cautioned that instability in the country has negatively impacted the Court’s work. The prosecutor also called on the Libyan government to transfer ICC suspect Saif Gaddafi to The Hague.

Before the Council meeting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Council members to use the prosecutor’s briefing to make clear that impunity in Libya must end.

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Central African Republic
HRW urged the International Contact Group for the CAR to publicly call for an end to sectarian violence in the country. A team from the Office of the Prosecutor is on a fact-finding mission in the CAR. The Seleka rebels blocked two highways through Bangui and exchanged gunfire with UN troops.

Kenya
In a statementKenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice criticized an attack on the ICC’s record made by the Kenyan UN ambassador in the General Assembly. 

Kenya’s attempt to add an agenda item on what it calls violations of the Rome Statute by the prosecutor and judges could create tensions between the Court’s critics and supporters at next month’s meeting of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), the Star (Kenya) reports. Kenya wrote a letter to the ASP president protesting the decision to not include its proposed amendments to Rome Statute on the agenda of an upcoming meeting of the Working Group on Amendments.

The ICC rejected a request from the National Council of Elders Kenya to file submissions in Uhuru Kenyatta’s case. The mother of a post-election violence victim reacted to a court ruling ordering her son’s alleged killer to be retried.

Darfur
After UNAMID’s initial investigation of an alleged mass rape of over 200 women and girls in Tabit, Darfur turned up no evidence, the peackeeping force is facing allegations that it failed to properly investigate. The UN Security Council expressed concern at the heavy presence of the Sudanese military during UNAMID’s investigation, who reportedly filmed the testimonies of witnesses interviewed by UN investigators.

The Darfur Bar Association called on the UN to order a full, independent inquiry, and in a letter to the UN secretary general, Darfur rebel groups called for an ICC investigation. The European Union (EU) and Norway called for those responsible to be held accountable, while Sudanese opposition parties called for an independent inquiry. Residents of Tabit are reportedly shocked that UNAMID said it found no evidence supporting the rape allegations. The Sudanese army denied that the rapes occurred.

Democratic Republic of Congo
The International Center for Transitional Justice co-organized a high-level summit on strengthening the Congolese judiciary and its ability to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

A Congolese military court sentenced a former rebel commander to 10 years imprisonment for war crimes, including rape and murder. Meanwhile, mysterious overnight massacres in the eastern DRC have stoked anger against UN peacekeepers and the DRC army for failing to protect civilians.

Uganda
The UN said that attacks and abductions by the Lord’s Resistance Army are on the rise across central Africa.

Libya
Two explosions injured at least 20 in eastern Libya after three activists were found beheaded.

Mali
HRW criticized a draft peace agreement to end the crisis in northern Mali for not adequately addressing accountability for serious crimes committed during the conflict.

The International Federation for Human Rights and several Malian organizations filed a criminal complaint with Malian authorities on behalf of 80 victims of rape and sexual violence in northern Mali.

Côte d’Ivoire
Judges rejected Charles Blé Goudé’s challenge to the admissibility of the case against him at the ICC. Ivoire Justice interviewed the ICC’s Amady Ba about the Blé Goudé case (in French).

Preliminary Examinations
The Center for Constitutional Rights criticized the ICC prosecutor’s decision not to proceed with a full investigation into the Mavi Marmara raid. Gunal Kursun of the Human Rights Agenda Association also criticized the decision and called it a Pyrrhic victory for Israel. AMICC Convenor John Washburn argued that the prosecutor’s decision showed that she will not yield to political pressures when dealing with Israel/Palestine-related issues. Lecturer and blogger Michael Kearney argued that the prosecutor’s decision was not unreasonable.

HRW op-ed called on Colombia‘s government to withdraw draft legislation that could ensure impunity for the so-called ‘false positive’ extrajudicial killings. An indigenous court in Colombia convicted seven FARC members of murdering two local community leaders. The UN expressed concern over the convictions.

Georgia‘s opposition wants parliament to pass a resolution condemning Russia’s “attempt to annex occupied Abkhazia.”

The ICC prosecutor will review a communication seeking an investigation of two former Nigerian officials accused of sponsoring the Boko Haram. At least 47 people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bombing of a school in northeastern Nigeria.

Campaign for Global Justice
The Coalition for the ICC and REDRESS participated in a judicial training session in Lima, Peru organized by the Andean Commission of Jurists, with the support of the European Commission and Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator.
Parliamentarians for Global Action welcomed Costa Rica’s approval of the Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute.

The American Bar Association ICC Project and the Washington Working Group on the ICC organized a Senate briefing on the ICC, featuring remarks by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. 

Former Al-Haq director Fateh Azzam called on Palestine to join the ICC as a statement that international law still matters.

An OpenDemocracy columnist argued that although India is unlikely to join the ICC any time soon, the Rome Statute has proven useful for advocating for legal reforms that would end impunity for state complicity in violence.

What else is happening?
No Peace Without Justice commemorated its 20th anniversary with a conference on the ICC in Rome on 13 November.

HRW welcomed the scheduled trial of 26 security agents of the Hissène Habré regime in Chad, but urged the authorities to ensure the trial is fair and transparent. 

An Israeli group sent a communication to the ICC alleging that the Palestinian president is responsible for war crimes. Palestine’s chief negotiator said that Palestine will go to the ICC over a law extending Israeli law to the West Bank. Israel denied entry to members of a UN inquiry into the latest Gaza conflict. On Justice in Conflict, Iva Vukusic considered the options for justice in Syria besides an ICC referral.

An OpenDemocracy contributor argued that while Africa could benefit from the ICC, it has proven not to be fair, credible, competent or independent.

North Korea broke off talks with the EU over Europe’s support for a UN resolution referring North Korea to the ICC. Academic and blogger Mark Kersten argued that Kim Jong-Un is concerned about a possible ICC referral because it will limit his travel and prestige, not because he thinks he might wind up on trial in The Hague.

An investigation by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic collected what it believes to be enough evidence to support war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against three Myanmar military commanders.

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