On 12-13 November, closing arguments will be heard in the trial of Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC in The Hague. Here are ten facts about the case.
- Bemba is a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was also the president and commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC)—a Congolese militia group.
- He is accused of being responsible, as military commander, of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) allegedly committed by MLC troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-3. This is the first ICC case that the accused is charged with “command responsibility,” including for acts of rape.
- The MLC had been invited by the then CAR president, Ange-Félix Patassé, to help put down a coup attempt.
- Bemba was arrested by Belgian authorities when visiting the country in May 2008 on a sealed (not public) ICC arrest warrant.
- The trial began on 22 November 2010.
- At least 5,229 victims were authorized to participate in the trial. Five of these also testified as witnesses.
- 74 witnesses testified during the trial—40 for the prosecution and 34 for the defense. 14 prosecution witnesses testified about rape and other forms of sexual violence.
- Bemba was granted interim release prior to the start of his trial in 2009, but that order was reversed on appeal. Bemba had previously been allowed a 24-hour release to attend his father’s funeral.
- During the trial, Bemba was charged with forging evidence and bribing witnesses in his case. Two of his legal counsel, a defense witness and a member of the Congolese parliament were also charged. Bemba will face those charges separately from the current trial.
- The situation in the CAR was referred to the ICC prosecutor by the CAR government itself in 2005 because it was unable to carry out the necessary investigations and prosecutions.
Overview of Bemba’s Trial at the ICC, International Justice Monitor, 7 November. See our Bemba webpage for more information.