In early June the International Criminal Court appeals chamber acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba in a 3-2 ruling. Two years ago Bemba was sentenced to 18 years’ for his role, as military commander, for atrocities committed in Central African Republic (CAR).
The decision astounded observers. The unexpected, narrowly decided acquittal, brought scads of criticism. This was because Bemba’s 2016 conviction was considered hugely significant. It assigned criminal responsibility to a senior military official physically removed from the violence. It also made sexual violence a centrepiece of the charges.
Sexual violence, a staple of war, has long been absent from international criminal law’s charge sheets. By assigning Bemba responsibility for the rapes committed by fighters under his command, the 2016 judgment was seen as an important doctrinal advance for international criminal law.
Bemba’s acquittal has wide implications. This is true both for Bemba as well as the ICC and international criminal law. Bemba, who will shortly be released, is rumoured to be returning to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to pursue political goals. There are reports that his party, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, known as the MLC, has nominated him as its candidate for the presidential race.
On 15 December 2017, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision setting the amount of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo's liability for collective reparations at USD 10,000,000. The decision completes the Order for Reparations of 3 March 2015 in the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, which awarded collective reparations to the victims of the war crimes committed by Mr Lubanga, namely: conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 into an armed group (Union des patriotes congolais/Forces patriotiques pour la libération du Congo) and using them to participate actively in hostilities.
The Chamber examined a sample of 473 applications representative of all of the victims potentially eligible for reparations and concluded that 425 of them were most likely direct or indirect victims of the crimes of which Mr Lubanga was convicted. The Chamber stated, however, that further evidence established the existence of hundreds or even thousands of additional victims affected by Mr Lubanga's crimes. The Chamber also stated in this respect that some potential victims were no longer willing or able to take part in the reparations process for safety reasons.
The Chamber recalled that the scope of a convicted person's liability is proportionate to the harm caused and, among other things, his or her participation in the commission of the crimes for which he or she has been found guilty, in the specific circumstances of the case. The Chamber further recalled that only collective reparations were awarded in this case. The Chamber assessed the harm suffered by the aforementioned 425 persons recognized as victims of Mr Lubanga at USD 3,400,000, and equitably assessed Mr Lubanga's liability exclusive of the harm suffered by those persons at USD 6,600,000 – bringing the total amount of Mr Lubanga's liability for collective reparations to USD 10,000,000.
In view of Mr Lubanga's indigence, the Chamber invited the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims to examine the possibility of earmarking an additional amount for the implementation of collective reparations in this case and/or continuing its efforts to raise additional funds. The Chamber also instructed the Trust Fund to make contact with the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to explore how the Government might contribute to the reparations process.
On 21 October 2016, the Chamber had approved the implementation of symbolic collective reparations and, on 6 April 2017, it had approved the first stage of the implementation of service-based collective reparations, directing the Trust Fund to begin the selection of implementing partners (after which the Chamber may approve the second stage of the implementation process). The Chamber will decide in due course on the next steps in the implementation of collective reparations.
The members of the Trial Chamber II Bench are Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut (Presiding Judge), Judge Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Judge Péter Kovács. The Chamber issued its decision publicly in a hearing at the seat of the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands. The Legal Representatives of both groups of victims, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims, the Defence and the Trust Fund were in attendance.
Published on the ICC on December 15, 2017
By Stephanie Nebehay
Spreading ethnic violence is driving more people from their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the humanitarian situation is "dramatically deteriorating", the United Nations said on Monday.
Some 100,000 people were uprooted last week alone, bringing the ranks of displaced in the central Kasai region to nearly 1.3 million, it said. The total number of displaced throughout Congo has more than doubled to 3.7 million since Aug 2016.
"This very acute crisis in the DRC is not just expanding dramatically in terms of numbers but it's also expanding in terms of geographical scope," said Rein Paulsen, head of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs office in Congo.
"The fact that we are also now seeing an evolution of the conflict in the Kasais where inter-ethnic violence and conflict is becoming a dominant characteristic should be a deep, deep concern to all of us," he told a news briefing.
The U.N. said last month it had documented 40 mass grave sites and killings of more than 400 people in Kasai, the focus of the fight against the Kamuina Nsapu militia, since August when security forces killed its leader. The militia has been fighting largely to avenge his death.
Paulsen cited fresh reports from U.N. staff of inter-ethnic fighting in the Kasais, including the Penda and Chokwe ethnic groups against the Luba and clashes between the Lunda and Luba.
In Manono, in the eastern province of Tanganyika, more than 140 villages have been reportedly burned down in a separate conflict between the pygmy population and Bantu ethnic groups, causing forced displacement, he said.
Across the vast Central African nation, an estimated 1.9 million children under five are severely acutely malnourished, a condition which could kill them or leave them with lifelong damage, Paulsen said.
The United Nations has received just 19 percent of the $812.5 million sought in the humanitarian appeal for Congo this year, he said.
The world body said last month it was horrified by a video screened by the government that appeared to show the brutal killing of two U.N. investigators.
Congo's government said the film showed members of an anti-government militia carrying out the act although that has not been confirmed by either the U.N. or independent analysts.
Paulsen said that government workers - education inspectors and local transportation staff - had been "killed and beheaded" in the Kasais in the past week despite tighter security.
Published on Reuters' website on May 8, 2017.
The International Criminal Court Friday ordered 297 victims of ex-Congolese warlord Germain Katanga to each be paid "a symbolic" $250 in damages for a brutal 2003 attack on their village, in the tribunal's first such award.
Awarding both individual and collective damages, the court also found that Katanga was liable for one million dollars of the total damages estimated at $3.7 million (3.4 million euros).
Katanga was sentenced by the ICC to 12 years in jail in 2014, after being convicted on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the February 2003 ethnic attack on Bogoro village in Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was accused of supplying weapons to his militia in the attack in which some 200 people were shot and hacked to death with machetes.
"The chamber has assessed the scope of the prejudice to 297 victims as $3,752,620. The chamber sets the amount to be contributed by Mr Katanga towards the reparations as one million dollars," said presiding judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.
He recognised however that Katanga, currently imprisoned in Kinshasa where he is on trial on other charges arising out of the unrest in the Ituri region, was penniless or "indigent" and had no home or possessions.
The court acknowledged that the "symbolic amount of $250 to each victim of Mr Katanga ... does not make up for the totality of the crime," Perrin de Brichambaut said.
However it "can grant some measure of autonomy to the victims by making it possible for them to engage in some kind of activity... and make relevant decisions pertaining to their current needs."
Friday's order for reparations is a landmark step for the tribunal, set up in 2002 to prosecute the world's worst crimes, and marks the first time that monetary values have been placed on the harm caused by such crimes.
The court asked the Trust Fund for Victims, set up under the tribunal's founding guidelines to support victims, to consider using its resources to pay for the reparations and to come up with a plan for the court by late June.
Legal representatives for the victims had assessed the damage caused by the attack at $16.4 million in a filing to the court last year.
Katanga was watching Friday's order from his prison in Kinshasa, while five victims representing the group followed in the village of Bunia with their lawyers.
This article was published on The New Indian Express on March 24, 2017.