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CAR: Latest statements, trial updates and news
28 Sept 2011
Please find below information about recent developments related to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation in the Central African Republic.
This message includes an excerpt from a Human Rights Watch report (I); Bemba trial updates (II); related news and opinions (III) and audiovisual resources (IV).
Please take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the CICC will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.
I. HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT
1. "Unfinished Business, Closing Gaps in the Selection of ICC Cases" Human Rights Watch report, Section IV "Central African Republic", 15 September 2011, http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/icc0911webwcover.pdf
"...As in DRC and Uganda, the ICC prosecutor opened an investigation in the Central African Republic following a referral by the government. From the prosecutor's announcement at the time the investigation was opened in 2007, it was clear that he intended to focus on crimes committed during the 2002-2003 coup led by François Bozizé, the army chief of staff of then-President Ange-Félix Patassé. Bozizé made the referral to the ICC prosecutor after he took power following the success of his coup.84
The ICC investigation in CAR has led to just one arrest warrant, for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. Bemba, a Congolese national and former vice-president of the DRC, was in the CAR after Patasse invited him and his Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) forces, as well as Chadian mercenaries, to put down Bozizé's coup attempt. In CAR, Bemba's MLC forces allegedly carried out mass rapes, killings, and looting against the civilian population. Bemba was arrested in Belgium in 2008 and his trial began in The Hague in November 2010.85
Repeated questions have been raised about the OTP's decision not to charge Bemba with crimes committed by his forces in Congo, where MLC forces also allegedly carried out widespread attacks on the civilian population.86 Indeed, two victims petitioned the pretrial chamber to review the prosecutor's decision not to charge Bemba with crimes committed in DRC. Their petition cites the prosecutor's reliance on evidence during pretrial proceedings to confirm charges against Bemba showing that forces under his command were responsible for atrocities during an October 2002 campaign in Ituri. This was evidence the prosecutor introduced to show that a pattern of atrocities in DRC meant that Bemba knew or should have known that his forces would commit similar crimes in CAR. The petition was denied on the ground that the prosecutor had not taken an affirmative decision against the investigation of Bemba for crimes committed in DRC, and therefore there was no decision for the pre-trial chamber to review.88 However, it demonstrates the strong interest among victims in seeing justice for these crimes.
Until Patasse's death in April 2011, many also questioned the prosecutor's decision not to bring charges against him in addition to those brought against Bemba.90 Indeed, during Bemba's trial and shortly before Patasse's death, the CAR Prosecutor-General Firmin Feindiro testified that a national investigation had implicated both Bemba and Patasse, although neither was tried in CAR. Human Rights Watch did not document human rights violations committed during the 2002-2003 rebellion in CAR, though we did document abuses by MLC troops in Congo. We do not have first-hand knowledge of the crime pattern or the identity of possible perpetrators. But, as discussed above, the OTP has an obligation with regard to each situation in which it intervenes to put in place an investigative and prosecutorial strategy designed to bring to trial those most responsible for the most serious crimes on charges representative of the underlying patterns of ICC crimes. It is hard to see how this goal could be achieved in the case of CAR through the issuance of just one arrest warrant.
In addition, there is a perception in the DRC that the prosecutor targeted Bemba because he wanted the cooperation of Congolese President Joseph Kabila in the ICC's investigations in DRC. Bemba was Kabila's chief political rival in DRC at the time of his arrest, which closely followed attacks against him and his supporters in Kinshasa. The damage to perceptions of the ICC's independence and impartiality has been compounded mby the absence, so far, of ICC scrutiny of crimes committed by Bozizé's own troops. This echoes the shortcomings of the ICC's approach to DRC and Uganda, where security forces affiliated with the referring government appear to have avoided ICC scrutiny. The case against Bemba for crimes committed in CAR is important in its own right. But viewed in the context both of other crimes committed in CAR and regional dynamics, it has added to concerns about the court's independence and impartiality, and its commitment to do meaningful justice for crimes committed in both CAR and DRC. We therefore recommend that the OTP revisit its strategy for CAR and begin additional investigations, or communicate clearly to the affected communities and the broader public its reasons for concluding that no further cases should be brought at this time...."
II. BEMBA TRIAL UPDATES
1. "Witness Claims Bemba's Commander Looted Jeep in Bangui," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 27 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/witness-claims-bembaâs-commander-looted-jeep-in-bangui/
2. "Bemba Defense Questions Insider Witness About MLC Code of Conduct," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial blog, 26 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/bemba-defense-questions-insider-witness-about-mlc-code-of-conduct/
3. "Prosecutors Call 29th Witness in Bemba Trial," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 23 September 2011
4. "Victims' Lawyers Permitted to Question Insider Witnesses," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 19 September 2011
5. "Questioning of Former Bemba Insider Continues in Closed Session," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 16 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/questioning-of-former-bemba-insider-continues-in-closed-session/
6. "Bemba's Defense Continues to Question MLC Insider in Closed Session," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 15 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/bembaâs-defense-continues-to-question-mlc-insider-in-closed-session/
7. "Bemba Contacted Commanders Using a Communication Center at his Home," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 14 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/bemba-contacted-commanders-using-a-communication-center-at-his-home/
8. "Bemba's defence questions MLC insider, mostly in closed session," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 13 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/bembaâs-defense-questions-mlc-insider-mostly-in-closed-session/
9. "Witness says Bemba set up tribunal to try rowdy soldiers," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 12 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/witness-says-bemba-set-up-tribunal-to-try-rowdy-soldiers/
10. "Q&A with the Executive Director of the Trust Fund for Victims Pieter W.I de Baan," by Jennidfer Easterday, Bemba Trial Bog commentary, 12 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/qa-with-the-executive-director-of-the-trust-fund-for-victims-pieter-w-i-de-baan/
11. "War crimes suspect Bemba won't run in DR Congo poll," Radio Netherlands, 8 September 2011, http://www.rnw.nl/africa/bulletin/war-crimes-suspect-bemba-wont-run-dr-congo-poll
12. "Witness Describes MLC Command Structures," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 9 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/witness-describes-mlc-command-structures/
15. "Prosecution Calls 28th Witness in Bemba Trial," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 8 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/prosecution-calls-28th-witness-in-bemba-trial/
16. "Trial proceeds in closed session," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 6 September 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/trial-proceeds-in-closed-session/
17. "Trials stalls after witness reported unable to testify," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 5 September 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/trial-stalls-after-witness-reported-unable-to-testify/
18. "Trial told Patassé did not command Bemba's troops," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 2 September 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/in-news-videos-central-africans-praise-bembaâs-âliberatorsâ/
19. "Witness names top MLC officers," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 2 September 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/witness-names-top-mlc-officers/
20. "Bemba took looted vehicles," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 1 Septembre 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/09/bemba-took-looted-vehicles/
21. "Central African officials provided arms to Bemba's soldiers," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 30 August 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/central-african-officials-provided-arms-to-bembaâs-soldiers/
22. "In News Videos, Central Africans Praise Bemba's 'Liberators'," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 29 August 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/in-news-videos-central-africans-praise-bembaâs-âliberatorsâ/
23."Gone but not Forgotten: Bemba and Congo's 2011 Presidential Elections," by Olivia Bueno, Bemba Trial Bog commentary, 29 August 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/gone-but-not-forgotten-bemba-and-congoâs-2011-presidential-elections/
24. "Witness says MLC General took direct orders from Bemba" by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 24 August 2011, http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/witness-says-mlc-general-took-direct-orders-from-bemba/
25. "Witness says Bemba's troops 'had to fend for themselves'," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 23 August 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/witness-says-bembaâs-troops-âhad-to-fend-for-themselvesâ/
26. "Bemba Trial Resumes Next Week," by Wakabi Wairagala, Bemba Trial Blog, 16 August 2011 http://www.bembatrial.org/2011/08/bemba-trial-resumes-next-week-2/
III. RELATED NEWS AND OPINIONS
1. "UN team calls for end to use of children in conflict in Central African Republic," UN News Centre, 25 July 2011
2. "Condemning Lord's Resistance Army atrocities, Security Council demands surrender," UN News Centre, 21 July 2011,http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39116&Cr=LRA&Cr1=&Kw1=central+african+republic&Kw2=&Kw3=
III. AUDIOVISUAL RESOURCES
1. "Bemba Trial - In the Courtroom," ICC, 12-16 September 2011
2. "Bemba Trial - In the Courtroom," ICC, 5-9 September 2011
3. "Bemba Trial - In the Courtroom," ICC, 29 August-2 September 2011
4. "Bemba Trial - In the Courtroom," ICC, 22-26 August 2011
CICC's policy on the referral and prosecution of situations before the ICC:
The Coalition for the ICC is not an organ of the court. The CICC is an independent NGO movement dedicated to the establishment of the International Criminal Court as a fair, effective, and independent international organization. The Coalition will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC and to help coordinate global action to effectively implement the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Coalition will also endeavor to respond to basic queries and to raise awareness about the ICC's trigger mechanisms and procedures, as they develop. The Coalition as a whole, and its secretariat, do not endorse or promote specific investigations or prosecutions or take a position on situations before the ICC. However, individual CICC members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts. Communications to the ICC can be sent to: ICC P.O. box 19519 2500 CM the Hague The Netherlands