The Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba

Jean-Pierre Bemba, a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is the alleged President and Commander-in-chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), alleged to have committed widespread crimes in both DRC and Central African Republic (CAR). 

The government of Central African Republic referred the Situation in Central African Republic to the ICC Prosecutor on 17 January 2005. The Prosecutor opened an investigation on 22 May 2005. A Warrant for the Arrest of Jean Pierre Bemba was issued on 28 May and amended on 10 June 2008, containing charges for rape as a crime against humanity and as a war crime; torture as a crime against humanity and as a war crime; committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, as a war crime; and pillaging a town or place as a war crime. The suspect was arrested by the Kingdom of Belgium on 24 May and was transferred to The Hague on 3 July 2008. 

Mr. Bemba’s trial opened on 22 November 2010 and concluded in November 2014. 5,229 victims participated.

On 21 March 2016, Mr. Bemba was convicted of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and later sentenced to 18 years in prison. As at 6 October 2016, both the conviction and sentence are under appeal and reparation proceedings are underway.

REDRESS has sought to intervene twice in the case (see below). Its second request - to make observations on the issue of reparation – was granted in August 2016.

Rape as torture

On 15 June 2009, Pre Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against Bemba but declined to confirm the charges of torture and outrages upon personal dignity.  On the 21 June 2009, the Prosecutor asked for leave to appeal the decision.

On 28 August 2009, a group of experts, women’s human rights advocates and human rights organizations including REDRESS, filed an application for leave to submit an amicus in the Bemba case on the issue of cumulative charging for rape, torture and outrages upon personal dignity. The submission asserted that cumulative charging is a widely accepted and established practice in national and international courts and does not contravene the right of the accused to a fair trial. It was emphasised that the offences of rape and torture require clearly distinct elements, justifying a cumulative charging approach. In addition, the amici argued that the negotiating history of the Rome Statute and Elements of Crimes promotes cumulative charging for crimes of sexual violence. Furthermore, the amici stressed that rape has long been considered under the concept of torture in international criminal, human rights, humanitarian, and customary international law. Given that sexual and gender-based violence disproportionately affects women, disallowing cumulative charging also constitutes discrimination on the basis of gender. Finally, the amici warned that disallowing cumulative charging risked the trivialising rape and other crimes of sexual violence. 

Single Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova rejected the application on 4 September 2009 on the basis of ensuring the expeditiousness of the proceedings. The Chamber later rejected the Prosecutor’s request for leave to appeal the charging Decision.


Submission on reparation

On 22 July 2016, the Chamber issued an order requesting submissions on a number of areas to assist its determination of the principle and procedure to be applied to the reparation phase in the case.

On 10 August 2016, REDRESS sought leave to provide observations on the following issues:

  1. Having regard to the principles established by the Appeals Chamber in the Lubanga case, REDRESS would provide information and analysis on whether i) the number of the potential beneficiaries; ii) the locations of the potential beneficiaries; iii) the current humanitarian context in which many potential beneficiaries find themselves in, may benefit from any adaption, modification or clarification of the principles. REDRESS would also provide information and analysis on ways in which the Trial Chamber may monitor and assure the proper implementation of those principles by those it may delegate certain tasks relating to the implementation of its order;
  2. The criteria and methodology to be applied in the determination and assessment of (i) the eligibility of victims; (ii) the relevant harms and (iii) the scope of liability of Mr Bemba, including the determination of the precise extent of the (monetary) obligations to be imposed on him;
  3. Methodologies that the Chamber might employ to determine the types and modalities of reparations appropriate to address the harm relevant in the circumstances of the case, including factors relating to the appropriateness of awarding reparations on an individual basis, a collective basis, or both. In this respect, REDRESS would not seek to offer the Chamber any observations on what the Chamber should ultimately award but in contrast would focus on the types of factors the Chamber could usefully take into account when determining an appropriate award.



Photo credit ICC-CPI

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