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Jean-Pierre Bemba convicted of witness tampering

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The former Congolese Vice President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who is serving an 18-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity and war crimes, was convicted of coaching witnesses and bribing them to give false testimony.

The applicable law was Article 70(1) of the Rome Statute which addresses various forms of conduct that may encroach upon the integrity and efficacy of the proceedings before the Court. The ICC noted that 14 key witnesses had been coached about what to say and that Bemba and four other defendants had conspired to present false evidence. The facts of the case included:

  • Mr Bemba, Mr Kilolo and Mr Mangenda jointly agreed to illicitly interfere with defence witnesses in order to ensure that they would provide evidence in favour of Mr Bemba.
  • Mr Bemba, Mr Kilolo and Mr Mangenda adopted a series of measures with a view to concealing their illicit activities, such as the abuse of the Registry’s privileged line in the ICC Detention Centre, or money transfers to defence witnesses through third persons or to persons close to the defence witnesses.
  • Mr Bemba, as the ultimate beneficiary of the common plan, planned, authorised, and approved the illicit coaching of the 14 Main Case defence witnesses and provided precise instructions which were, in turn, implemented by Mr Kilolo. Mr Bemba authorised the illicit payment of money to the witnesses prior to their testimony and ensured, that financial means were available with which to execute illicit activities.
  • Mr Bemba also spoke with witnesses personally on the telephone by abusing the ICC Detention Centre privileged line.

The summary of the judgement reads in part:

In the light of the foregoing, the Chamber is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Bemba, jointly with Mr Kilolo and Mr Mangenda, committed the offence of corruptly influencing 14 Main Case defence witnesses within the meaning of Articles 70(1)(c) and 25(3)(a) of the Statute.

The Chamber found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo guilty, under Articles 70(1)(b) and (c), in conjunction with Article 25(3)(a) of the Statute, of having corruptly influenced D-2, D-3, D-4, D-6, D-13, D-15, D-23, D-25, D-26, D-29, D-54, D-55, D-57, and D-64 and having presented their false evidence as co-perpetrator; guilty, under Article 70(1)(a), in conjunction with Article 25(3)(b) of the Statute, of having solicited the giving of false testimony by witnesses D-2, D-3, D-4, D-6, D-13, D-15, D-23, D-25, D-26, D-29, D-54, D-55, D-57, and D-64.

The verdict was delivered by Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday 19 October 2016 at 14:30 (Hague local time). For these types of offences, according to the Rome Statute, the judges may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years and/or a fine. “No legal system in the world can accept the bribing of witnesses, the inducement of witnesses to lie or the illicit coaching of witnesses,” said the presiding judge, Bertram Schmitt, “Today’s judgment sends the clear message that the court is not willing to allow its proceedings to be hampered or destroyed.”

The Chamber will be pronouncing the penalties at a subsequent stage.

 

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