UN: ICC finds DRC rebel leader, 4 others guilty of tempering witnesses

New York, US (PANA) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday found former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba and his four close aides, Aime Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidele Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido, guilty of various offences against the administration of justice.

PANA recalled that Bemba was earlier this year jailed 18 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

An ICC statement, made available to PANA in New York, stated that the five accused persons were convicted of corruptly influencing witnesses and falsifying evidence during Bemba's trial.

It is the first such corruption trial in the history of the ICC in The Hague.

The statement said the judgment was delivered during a public hearing in the presence of all five accused persons and the court heard that Bemba and his co-defendants had tried to corrupt 14 key witnesses in the original trial by bribing them with money and laptops.

Delivering the verdict, Judge Bertram Schmitt said the case was "about clear, and downright criminal behaviour of the five accused... that resulted in serious offences against the administration of justice".

"No legal system in the world can accept the bribing of witnesses, the inducement of witnesses to lie or the coaching of witnesses. Today's judgement sends a clear message that the court is not willing to allow its proceedings to be hampered or destroyed," he said.

"Furthermore, Mr. Bemba was found guilty of soliciting the giving of false testimony by the 14 defence witnesses. Mr. Kilolo was found guilty of inducing the giving of false testimony by the 14 defence witnesses, and Mr. Mangenda was found guilty of aiding the giving of false testimony by two defence witnesses and abetting the giving of false testimony by seven defence witnesses.

"But, Mr. Mangenda was found not guilty of having aided, abetted or otherwise assisted in the giving of false testimony by the five other witnesses," the judge noted.

He said: "In addition, the Chamber found Mr. Babala guilty of aiding the corrupt influencing of two defence witnesses. However, Mr. Babala was found not guilty of having aided, abetted or otherwise assisted in the giving of false testimony by the 12 other witnesses and not guilty of presenting their false evidence to the court."

"Mr. Babala was acquitted of those charges. Mr. Arido was found guilty of corruptly influencing four defence witnesses. He was found not guilty of having aided, abetted or otherwise assisted in the presentation of false evidence by the four witnesses and not guilty of giving their false testimony to the court. Mr. Arido was acquitted of those charges," he said.

Bemba was convicted in March of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003. He was accused of failing to stop his rebel forces from killing and raping people. He was jailed in June and is appealing against his conviction.

In the latest case, prosecutors had said evidence including telephone recordings, records of money transfers, emails and texts showed Bemba and his aides had tried to pervert the course of justice.

The defence, however, argued that the telephone recordings had been misinterpreted.

The trial of Bemba and his four aides for offences against the administration of justice opened on 29 September 2015 before ICC's Trial Chamber VII.

On 29 April 2016, the ICC Chamber closed the submission of evidence in the case and the trial’s closing oral statements took place between 31 May and 1 June 2016.

In the course of 46 days of hearings, Trial Chamber VII heard 13 witnesses and expert witnesses called by the Prosecution, and 6 called by the defence teams for the five accused, and examined numerous evidentiary materials, including audio recordings of intercepted telephone communications, and documentary evidence. Trial Chamber VII issued 266 written orders and decisions and 80 oral decisions.

The ICC Trial Chamber VII is composed of Judge Bertram Schmitt, Presiding Judge, Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut and Judge Raul Cano Pangalangan.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 19Oct2016

19 october 2016 15:26:10

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