Jean-Pierre Bemba
Jean-Pierre Bemba
Jean-Pierre Bemba at ICC

The trail of former Vice President of Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba  and six others opened today  before trial chamber VII at the International Criminal Court at Hague in the Netherlands

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido are accused of offences against the administration of justice in connection with witnesses’ testimonies in the case of the prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.

The trial started with the reading of the charges. Presiding judge Bertram Schmitt verified that the accused persons understood the nature of the charges. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido pleaded not guilty to the charges. The Court’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Senior Trial Lawyer Kweku Vanderpuye then took the floor for opening statements.

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The hearings will resume tomorrow with the start of the prosecution’s presentation of evidence. The opening statements of the defence will be made at the beginning of the presentation of evidence of the defence.

The trial is expected to take several months. During the first part, the office of the prosecutor will be presenting the evidence at the prosecution’s disposal. Once the prosecution has presented all its evidence, it is the turn of the accused persons, with the assistance of their counsel, to present their case.

Trial Chamber VII is composed of presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt, Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and Judge Raul Pangalangan.

Judges will ensure that the trial is fair and expeditious and is conducted with full respect for the rights of the defence, the equality of arms and the principle of adversarial debate, having further due regard for the protection of victims and witnesses.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido are accused of offences against the administration of justice in connection with witnesses’ testimonies, between the end of 2011 and November 14, 2013, including corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony, presenting false evidence and giving false testimony in the courtroom.

Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido are appearing voluntarily before the Court as they were granted interim release on October 21, 2014. Bemba  is in ICC custody.