The Trial Chamber VII of the International Criminal Court has scheduled the delivery of the decision on sentencing in The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido (Prosecutor v Bemba et al) for the 22nd March 2017.
The case arose out of allegations of witness interfering in The Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, where Mr Bemba, effectively acting as the military commander for the Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo (MLC), was found guilty on two counts of crimes against humanity, and three accounts of war crimes, committed in the Central African Republic by the MLC troops between October 2002 and March 2003- crimes for which he received an imprisonment sentence for 18 years in June 2016.
During Bemba’s trial, Bemba, some members of his defence and two others were charged by the ICC Prosecutor for obstructing the administration of justice in that case (Prosecutor v Bemba). Bemba was still in custody and the implicated members of his defence team were arrested and placed in custody without bail. In November 2014, the Pre-Trial Chamber found sufficient reason to try Mr Bemba, the accused in the main case; Mr Musamba, his lead counsel; Mr Kabongo, a member of his defence team and case manager; Mr Wandu, a member of the DRC Parliament and Deputy Secretary General of the MLC; and Mr Arido, a Defence witness in the main case who eventually did not testify.
The accused were tried under article 70 of the Rome Statute for their conduct in Bemba’s trial which amounted to the obstruction of the administration of justice through witness tampering. Guided by article 40(6) of the Rome Statute which dissuades unreasonable pre-trial detention in the face of the applicable penalty at conviction, Messrs Musamba, Mangeda, Wandu and Arido (the ‘Four Accused’) were released from the custody of the ICC after being in pre-trial detention since their arrest on the 23rd November 2013 and following their assurance that they would appear before the Court whenever summoned. Mr Bemba, the fifth suspect in this case, was released by the Pre-Trial Chamber but remained in detention pursuant to on-going proceedings in his case before the Court.
On 19 October 2016, Trial Chamber VII found the accused persons guilty as co-perpetrators, in varying counts and degree, in intentionally corrupting 14 witnesses and influencing their testimonies in the main case and ordered that they remain on conditional release pending the imposition of penalties in their case.
The delivery of the sentencing for the accused will be a public hearing and will take place at 11.00h at the Seat of the Court in The Hague in Courtroom 1, with orders from the Chamber that the convicted persons be present at the hearing.