DR Congo's Bemba in ICC dock for bribing witnesses

Tuesday May 31 2016

Former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo at the International Criminal Crimes court room on March 21, 2016 in The Hague. PHOTO | AFP

Convicted Congolese war criminal Jean-Pierre Bemba found himself back in the dock at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday — this time accused of bribing witnesses and falsifying evidence.

Prosecutors at the first such trial in ICC history said the alleged bribery and forgery was a sign of "how far the accused were prepared to go to hide their illegal behaviour."

Bemba stands accused, along with two of his lawyers and an MP from his party, of presenting fake documents to the court and giving backhanders to witnesses in his war crimes trial.

In March, the ICC convicted the former militia chief of war crimes and crimes against humanity for rapes, mass murders and looting from late 2002 to March 2003 in the neighbouring Central African Republic.

READ: ICC finds Congolese politician guilty of Central African war crimes

His rebel militia from northern Democratic Republic of Congo went on a rampage through part of the CAR after he sent some 1,500 men to prop up then president Ange-Felix Patasse, who was nonetheless ousted in a March 2003 coup.


"Bemba had a lot to lose in his trial: his stature, his standing, his political power, the possibility of a successful presidential election, his freedom," prosecution lawyer Kweku Vanderpuye told the court.

According to the prosecution, eight witnesses have already admitted to perjury and two of them were bribed just hours before leaving for the court in The Hague.

Bemba's defence team was due to address the court later Tuesday.