Case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

The Situation in Central African RepublicProsecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

The case against Jean-Pierre Bemba arises from the Prosecutor’s investigation into the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Prosecution alleges that Mr. Bemba is criminally responsible under Article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute for crimes committed in CAR during an armed conflict between 25th October 2002 and 15th March 2003.

On 23 May 2008, Pre-Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest for Mr. Bemba considering that there were reasonable grounds to believe that he was criminally responsible under Article 25(3) of Rome Statute. Mr. Bemba is charged with: 

  • Three counts of crimes against humanity: rape (Article 7(1)(g)), torture (Article 7(1)(f)), and murder (Article 7(1)(a)) 
  • Five counts of war crimes: rape (Article 8(2)(e)(vi)), torture (Article 8(2)(c)(i)), committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment (Article 8(2)(c)(ii)), pillaging a town or place (Article 8(2)(e)(v)), and murder (Article 8(2)(c)(i)).
    Confirmation of charges hearing

From 12 to 15 January, the confirmation of charges hearing in the case against Mr. Bemba was held at the ICC. Mr. Bemba is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Mouvement de Liberation du Congo (MLC) troops in the CAR. The Prosecution presented evidence seeking to establish that during the aforementioned armed conflict in the CAR, the national armed forces of Ange-Félix Patassé, then President of the CAR, were allied with the MLC combatants. This force fought a rebel movement led by François Bozizé. The Prosecution asserts that Mr. Bemba was both the President and Commander-in-Chief of the MLC and thus his contribution was essential to the implementation of a common plan between himself and Mr. Patassé. Predominantly, this plan consisted of the decision to send MLC combatants to the CAR and to give military assistance to Mr. Patassé. Further, that Mr. Bemba knew that the implementation of this common plan would lead to the commission of crimes but nevertheless accepted the risk .

The Defence countered with several lines of argument, chief among them that Mr. Bemba relinquished command of MLC troops to Mr. Patasse and should not therefore be held criminally responsible for the alleged crimes.

Confirmation hearing adjourned

On 3 March 2009, the Pre-trial Chamber decided to adjourn the confirmation hearing and request the Prosecutor to amend the charges pursuant to Article 61(7)(c)(ii) of the Rome Statute. The Chamber determined that the evidence submitted appeared to establish an alternate mode of liability for the alleged crimes-namely superior or command responsibility (Article 28). The Chamber indicated that it had not made a determination about the application of individual criminal responsibility (Article 25(3)) as alleged by the Prosecutor. Some scholars view superior responsibility as a lesser mode of liability than individual criminal responsibility.
The confirmation of charges hearing acts as a filter to determine whether a case should proceed to the trial phase. The Chamber must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Mr. Bemba committed the crimes charged. Pursuant to Regulation 53 of the Regulations of the Court, the Pre-Trial Chamber has a period of 60 days from the conclusion of the hearing to issue its decision. Given the Chamber’s decision to adjourn the proceedings, the 60 days will commence from April 24 (the final date for submissions in response to the Chamber’s ruling).

Read the transcripts of confirmation of charges proceedings:

15.01.2009 ICC-01/05-01/08-T-12-ENG WT 15-01-2009 1-142 SZ PT
14.01.2009 ICC-01/05-01/08-T-11-ENG ET WT 14-01-2009 1-132 SZ PT
13.01.2009 ICC-01/05-01/08-T-10-ENG ET WT 13-01-2009 1-137 SZ PT
12.01.2009 ICC-01/05-01/08-T-9-ENG ET WT 12-01-2009 1-105 SZ PT

Read ICC Decision Adjourning the Hearing pursuant to Article 61(7)(c)(ii) of the Rome Statute

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