First ICC’s bribery case – in the heart of darkness

14 May 2014 by Tjitske Lingsma, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is facing, for the first time, a case of offenses against the “administration of justice”, behind closed doors. Two lawyers for the ICC defendent Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, plus two other persons, were arrested six months ago for allegedly bribing witnesses. With the unprecedented appointment of an ‘independent counsel’, the questions about how the prosecutor has investigated this case abound.

The dramatic news broke on 24 November 2013. Bemba’s defence is virtually decapitated at the end of presenting its case, when almost all witnesses had been heard over the three years of the trial. Two ICC defence lawyers have been arrested, who were both working for former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba – on trial since November 2010 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed by his troops in the Central African Republic. During that weekend, a lead defence counsel, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, a case manager Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, a politician, Fidèle Babala Wandu, and a defence witness, Narcisse Arido, are apprehended in four different countries – respectively in Belgium, Netherlands, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and France. The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, claims that Bemba ran “a criminal scheme” from his cell in the detention unit. The five men are accused of bribing witnesses and presenting false or forged evidence. 

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