Warm up at Beach trial in Brazzaville

25 July 2005 by SIMPLICE ONGOUYA

After a discreet opening at 6 p.m. on 19 July, which the plaintiffs had not been invited to attend, the trial known as the “disappeared of the Beach” finally got underway before the Brazzaville criminal court on 21 July. 16 officers, including four generals, faced charges brought by 76 plain-tiffs in connection with the disappearance of 353 refugees in May 1999. The refugees were fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a boat that docked at the Brazzaville port. They were never heard from again. The authorities have always denied any involvement, but this politically sensitive trial should shed new light on the affair.

The Brazzaville courtroom was bustling on 21 July. The Congolese establishment occupied the front rows, with a packed public gallery behind. Attendees faced systematic searches at the entrance to the court, in spite of security measures verging on national alert that included a 350-metre security cordon and an impressive display of armed guards. Brazzaville residents turned up in force, encouraged by the cool temperatures of the 2 p.m. start. The prosecution had failed to implement the order to arrest and detain the accused, who appeared under their own steam. Heads turned at the arrival of the chief of police, flanked by an intimidating cohort of armed bodyguards. An unfazed court president, Charles Emile Apesse, called the accused to order: “For the next hearing, please leave your bodyguards outside.”

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

21 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

Being the ICC's Chief Prosecutor is a delicate and politically sensitivejob.ForLuisMorenoOcampo it has been "the best job in the world." Fatou Bensouda will be taking over his office in June. She inhe

07 December 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

December 7, 2011 Ivory Coast is the latest playgroundoftheInternationalCriminal Court. This week the courtroom in The Hague became its theatre of justice. Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo proudly p

07 December 2011 by Richard Walker

Four Congolese witnesses testifying at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, find themselves caught in a legal wrangle, which could at once set a legal precedent and make them the last

07 December 2011 by Lindy Janssen

Brazil is booming. The economy is expanding and the country is getting ready to host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. But the Latin American giant has not even begun dealing wi

07 December 2011 by Radosa Milutinovic

The primary purpose of the retrial of Ramush Haradinaj, as proclaimed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in its appeal judgement in July, should have been to hear testimonies of two "key" witnesses who proved unwilling to testify in the original trial in 2007. Almost four months into the retrial which started in mid-August, its stated aim has not yet been achieved.