ECOWAS, UN Agencies End 2-Day Joint Retreat

The Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS), the United Nations Volunteers Program (UNV) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), have ended a two-day joint retreat in Monrovia.

The retreat was was an exercise to revise the existing partnership agreement between ECOWAS Commission and the UNV, and to further propose a new agreement between these organizations.

It was the first between the ECOWAS Commission and the UNV since the partnership was signed in 2005, under the ECOWAS Volunteer Program (EVP), which was also initiated by the ECOWAS Commission on November 5, 2004.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Industry and Private Sector Mamadou Traore, informed participants that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and a cost–sharing agreement was signed between the UNV and ECOWAS Commission in 2005, but has not been re-commissioned to effectively establish the ECOWAS EVP with technical support, and funding from the UNV and the African Development Bank (ADB).

The retreat, Mr. Traore said, has provided framework that will formulate new ideas to mutually benefit the cooperation among the UNV, ECOWAS Commission and UNOSSC.

“We hope that this retreat will also provide the ground for heightening collaboration and development of new templates for a three–party South–South arrangement among UNV, ECOWAS Commission and the UNOSSC in the areas of youth migration, youth entrepreneurship, education, scholarships, gender development as well as volunteerism,” Traore said.

Benedict D. Roberts, Head of ECOWAS National Office and Chair of the ECOWAS Coordinating Council of EVP-Liberia, said that the single most important instrument in the MoU, which binds them together and determines the roles individuals play was a subject for discussion at the meeting.

Roberts cautioned participants to contribute to make their gathering achieve its objectives.

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister, Andy Quamie, expressed confidence that the meeting will help strengthen the existing partnership and also help Liberian youth, who are at a disadvantage.

The retreat was attended by representatives from the ECOWAS Commission, UNV program, and the UNOSSC, who discussed ways of strengthening the existing partnership among the three institutions to include Liberian youth.


Genocide Survivor Speaks of Healing and Forgiveness

Rwanda’s international recognition is often defined by the horrific 1994 genocide, but to many of the country’s citizens, the its story should not begin or end there.

Ebralie Mwizerwa, a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide, relayed Rwanda’s story of tragedy, strength, and regrowth to a packed classroom of students, faculty, and staff.

“Rwanda has risen from ashes. From the genocide, we completely lost the country. But thank God for the leaders who could rebuild and understand and for the Rwandans who could be so resilient to rebuild again. Its narrative has to be continued and known by the world,” said Mwizerwa.

The genocide began in April 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War, following ethnic tensions between the Hutu ethnic majority and the Tutsi minority. The Hutu nationalists initiated the mass killings and called for local citizens to engage in the violence against their neighbors, the Tutsis.

As a result of this genocide, more than 2 million Rwandans fled the country and nearly 1 million were killed.

Mwizerwa hid for weeks with her children, emerging at the end of the 100-day genocide in July 1994 to step over piles of dead bodies, which included members of her extended family. This traumatic experience has become integral to her life and career, which she now uses to share her story and promote peace.

Mwizerwa and her family came to the United States as refugees and found the opportunity to mend the broken spirits of other refugees. She and her husband co-founded Legacy Mission Village in 2000, a non-profit that helps refugees adjust to their new homes and become active and productive members of their community.

Today, she lives in Tennessee and works as the Project Coordinator for the Outreach Foundation, which is a religious charity that hosts missions to provide aid to those in need across the globe.

As a survivor herself, Mwizerwa has used the tool of forgiveness to move on and continue to be strong for her family and herself. She said that the wounds are still sometimes fresh for survivors, but forgiveness has al- lowed her to no longer be a prisoner of the past.

Instead, she has become a champion for the future through her work with the Outreach Foundation.

Mwizerwa places her faith in God as the true power that al- lowed for her to be a survivor of the Rwandan Genocide and to be a forgiving individual. Through her spirituality, Mwizerwa survived the Rwandan Genocide while pregnant with her fifth child and surrounded by her other four. “I cannot tell you

how much we faced death. I cannot tell you how much we were saved by the Hand that protected us,” said Mwizerwa.

The turning point of her path toward forgiveness began in 2011 when she and her husband accompanied a mission team to Rwanda. There, she encountered some of the Hutus who had killed her loved ones.

In this situation, Mwizerwa explained that there were two options: revenge or forgiveness. “The one [thing] we can do is to go to them, acknowledge that we know their mistake, and stand our ground of peace. Peacemaking has never been an easy situation,” said Mwizerwa.

However, Mwizerwa and her husband took their forgive- ness one step further by performing an act of servanthood. “We took a basin and washed their feet as a sign to them [that] this is it. We are putting this down. We wash it away, and we are your servants,” said Mwizerwa. She did this to prove to the Hutus that she forgave them.

Before this, the Hutus were hostile and aggressive because they thought Mwizerwa and her husband were coming for revenge.

However, with forgiveness does not come forgetfulness. Mwizerwa has still retained the memories of those she lost: her neighbors, uncles, cousins, and mother-in-law.

“Today the battle is how should we move on and how should we forgive. People are still stuck in 1994… because of the many things that came their way,” said Mwizerwa.

Rwanda has started rebuilding itself from the ground up through convicting those responsible for organizing the genocide, growing their economy out of poverty, and uniting with one another through pride for their country.

The event was hosted by the Africa & African-American Studies Program and facilitated by Dr. J. Scott Hewitt, associate professor and director of teacher education. Hewitt is also the faculty leader for the Rollins field study that travels to Rwanda every other year


ECOWAS Court Orders FG to Investigate 2016 Agatu Killings

The ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday ordered the Federal Government to investigate the 2016 mass killings and destruction of properties in the Agatu Community in Benue State, identify and prosecute the perpetrators and redress the victims.

Delivering judgment in a suit brought by a catholic priest, Reverend Father Solomon Mfa, and eleven others, a three member panel of the Court found the government in ‘violation of their obligation to protect the human rights of the Agatu Community and prevent its violation.’

Other plaintiffs in the suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/11/16, are, Reverend Joseph Dooga, Dr. Sam Abah, Dr.David Iordaah, Hon. Ochepo Yakubu, Hon. Terse Tange, Favour Adah Paul, Samuel Msonter Ijoho, Iorbee Bajah, Ashi Bajah, Terseer Iorbee Bajah and Movement Against Fulani Occupation(MAFO), while the President of Nigeria, the Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff and the Minister of Internal Affairs are 1st to 4th defendants respectively.

The plaintiffs had dragged the Federal Government to the region Court to address the issue of the alleged violation of their fundamental human rights.

A statement from the Communication Division of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, said the Applicants claimed that within the last three years, Fulani Herdsmen had carried out over 50 major attacks on Benue communities the most prominent of them taking place in 15 out of 23 Local Government Areas of the State namely, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi and Konshisha.

Furthermore, they alleged that affected communities had been completely overwhelmed and were now desolate and devastated as they have suffered wanton destruction of their properties and lives including: burning down and general destruction of houses and homes, sundry household items, farms, crops, economic trees, vehicles, machineries, food stuffs, schools etc.

The plaintiffs claimed that over 1000 people have been killed, according to documents filed before the Court with hundreds of thousands displaced while others are living in deplorable make shift camps and properties worth billions of naira destroyed in their communities by these ravaging Fulani Herdsmen this year alone.

They claimed that the action of the Defendants’ by not constituting an investigation panel nor taking measures to forestall a reoccurrence, amounted to negligence, was oppressive, arbitrary, capricious, and for Injuring the dignity and pride of the Applicants and for causing them great physical and psychological trauma.

The court was presided over by the President, Honourable Justice Edward Asante, but the judgment was read by Honorable Justice Dupe Atoki, wherein the Court also ordered the government to provide adequate security by deploying more security personnel to the ‘area to protect the Community and prevent further occurrences of that mayhem.’

Relying on Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right, to which the country is signatory, the Court held that in ‘view of the fact that the mass killings and destruction were admitted by both parties and uncontroverted therefore need no proof, the Respondent is under obligation to recognize the rights enshrined in the charter and adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.’

In other words: ‘the Respondent is obliged to protect the human rights of its citizens, in the instant case, the Agatu communities as guaranteed under the African Charter and prevent their violations even by private actors.’

The Court had earlier rejected the argument of the defendants contesting the locus of the plaintiffs by holding that the law recognizes the right of individuals and corporate bodies who are not victims to bring an action in a representative capacity under the principle of Actio Popularis.

“The Court under this situation will allow NGO’s and Public spirited individuals to institute actions on behalf of group of victims usually from a community or class of people based on common public interest to claim for the violation of their human rights, because this group may not have the knowledge and the financial capacity to maintain legal action of such magnitude which affects the general public interest”, the statement read.

The Court also rejected the contention of the Defendants that they cannot be held responsible for any ethnic crime committed by unidentified and unknown persons which constitute a breach as these perpetrators are not connected or known to the Defendants or any of its agencies.

The Court however ruled that it could not award the monetary compensation of five hundred billion naira demanded by the plaintiffs as it has no record of the details of the victims, their names, gender, age, address while the properties destroyed have also not been specifically identified nor their value indicated.

Counsel to the first to fourth Defendants, Mr. Dayo Apata, had blamed the crisis that engulfed the State and its environment on ethnic differences between the Agatu community and the Fulani community over farming and rearing of animals as has been established by various panels of enquiry set up at different times in a bid to proffer solution.

He said that the crisis between the two rival communities are not based on security lapses or the inability of the Federal or State Governments to protect the lives and properties of the people of state as security agencies were deployed to the Agatu community for the purpose of ensuring the protection of lives and properties in the interest of peace and security.


Gambia’s Ex-Chief Justice Wins US$200 Grand Damages For Wrongful…

The ECOWAS Court Wednesday ordered The Gambia to pay US$200,000 in ‘nominal damages’ to Justice Joseph Wowo, its former chief justice, for the violation of his rights to fair hearing, unlawful imprisonment and removal from office on allegation of corruption, false information and the abuse of office.

A three member panel of judges of the court presided over by Justice Edward Amoako Asante ordered that $150,000 of the amount or its equivalent in Dalasi should be paid to the former CJ as restoration mindful of the plaintiff’s claims of inability to secure employment and the time spent in prison after he was wrongfully tried and sentenced although he was subsequently cleared.

The balance of $50,000 will be paid to the plaintiff as legal fees since he has ‘not been working after his removal from office and may be constrained in meeting the financial obligations of his attorney.’ The court also awarded costs against The Gambia as will be assessed under and by virtue of Article 66 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure.

The court held that the plaintiff`s trial by a judge who was himself undergoing trial for corruption under the chief justice constituted a violation of his human rights to fair trial. The court also held that the acts of the defendant relative to the plaintiff`s removal from office, trial and conviction were biased, lacking in independence, inconsistent with due process, in breach of natural justice and thereby constituted a gross violation of the plaintiff`s right to fair trial.

In suit no: ECW/CCJ/APP/06/18, Wowo, a Nigerian who served as chief justice under former President Yahaya Jammeh sued the president for the alleged violation of his legitimate rights as enshrined in the African Charter, Articles 6&7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Section 24 of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia.

He claimed that owing to his nationality, he suffered discrimination by most members of The Gambian Bar to the extent that Ubna Farage, the then president of the Bar, and Amie Joof, the minister of Justice, sometime in 2013, made frivolous allegations of corruption against him which led to his removal from office without prior investigation.

The former chief justice, who had asked the court for $20 million in damages, stated that he contested his removal through the security authority which initiated an investigation in to the matter whose outcome has not been announced.

Consequently, he called a press conference where he denied the allegations of corruption against him as false and noted that the then President erred in removing him from office without due process.

In reaction, he alleged that the then president perceived his action as an affront to his authority and publically threatened to send him to jail and subsequently instructed the then minister of Justice to file a frivolous case against him alleging the abuse of office and spreading false information.

In this connection the Plaintiff said he wrote a letter in his capacity as the acting chief justice to the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, which investigated the allegation and exonerated him and surprisingly even commended him while two others who were indicted in the report were never charged.

He averred that during the trial, his counsel filed a motion urging the trial judge to recuse himself from the proceeding as he was himself on trial before the chief justice for corruption, a motion that was deliberately ignored by the trial judge. He alleged that the trial judge also ignored all the documents and testimonies of witnesses and instead convicted and sentenced him to two years imprisonment until his release under pressure by the governments of Nigeria and the United States.

The plaintiff therefore asked the ECOWAS Court for a declaration that his trial by a Judge who was undergoing corruption allegation proceedings before him is a violation of his human rights and for an order on the government to pay him $20 million dollars in damages and six percent interest per annum for violation of his human rights among others.

The defendant, however, denied the allegations of the plaintiff and instead contended that the former chief justice was removed from office by the president in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission after investigation and due deliberations pursuant to the petition.


Court Jails Kabiru Mohammed, 112 Boko Haram Members

The special court designated to try terrorism related cases sitting at the Wawa Military Cantonment in Kainji, Niger State, has sentenced 113 Boko Haram members to jail over their involvement in act of terrorism.

The defendants who were sentenced to various jail terms were arraigned by the federal government, on various charges ranging from membership of the proscribed Boko Haram group, concealing information vital to security agencies, providing support to the sect, participating in acts of terrorism which resulted in the deaths of many persons and murder.

Those sentenced include, one Kabiru Mohammed from Kaban-Magadan, in Funtua, Katsina State. He was accused of receiving training in the use of explosive and other terrorism items.

He was also accused of participating in series of attacks in Bama, kunduga, baga in Borno State and Damaturu in Yobe State, which resulted to lots of deaths in the two states.

According to him, he joined the sect in 2013 and rose to become a leader. He was said to have led others in carrying out attacks as well as instructing them to carry out attack on people and communities.

Mohammed, who disclosed that he voluntarily joined Boko Haram, said that at a time he became tired of the kind of live he was leading and threw away his gun and ran to Katsina State, his home town.
He was arrested in 2015 at a motor park in katsina.

He pleaded guilty to all the 7-count charge and was consequently sentenced to 30 years imprisonment with hard labour on each of the counts, which are to run concurrently from the day of his arrest.

Next is one Adamu Mohammed, 22 years old from Gombe State, who was charged with the murder of six people as well as throwing a bomb at a market place. While he admitted to killing six persons through the use of a short gun, he however claimed he threw the bomb in a river and not in a market place.

He was sentenced to 25 full calendar years with hard labour in a maximum prison and without an option of fine.
Banzana Yusuf, from Kano State, on his part bagged 20yrs for his role in the planning and kidnapping of the Chibok School girls in 2014.

So also is 25 years old Shetima Modu, arraigned on a four-count charge of engaging in terrorism activities.
He admitted participating in attacks on a church in Mala village as well as another attack in Gonuri village where seven people were killed.

One Sabo Kyari Mohammed, who was described by the Department of State Service (DSS) as a “strong member of Boko Haram”, however bagged a jail term of five full calendar years.

Part of his charge include providing surveillance for the group and participating in the attack known as “ operation point and kill” in his village, Musau in Borno State.

He was arrested by men of the Nigerian Army in Jos, Plateau State along with his wife and two children.
In handing down the sentence, the trial judge stated that, though the defendant being a 1st time offender, the court ordinarily ought to have showed him mercy in the judgment, but, “due to the carnage and wanton destruction of lives their action caused society, he is to serve a 5 full calendar years imprisonment.
“ This is to serve as a deterrent to himself and others like him “, the judge held.
Also sentenced is Zainab Idris, wife of Boko Haram commander, Babawo Idris.

Zainab was arrested in 2014 with her two children, while on her way to join her husband in Sambisa forest.
Her husband, popularly known as Idoko or Nagada was number 156 on the military’s wanted list before his arrest last September.

The court sentenced her to 4 years imprisonment for being a member of a proscribed group.
However, the court held that haven been in custody since 2014, it is possible that she has served her jail term and consequently ordered that she be released.

The judge, in addition ordered that she be taking to a rehabilitation center, “ for de-radicalization, and monitored under strict surveillance to avoid going back to Boko Haram”.

The judge advised her to learn a trade at the center so as to become useful to herself, her children and society in future.

However, the case of a notorious member of the sect, Mohammed Zakariya, also known as “Butcher”, could not be taken on the grounds that he was mentally sick.

The court consequently ordered that he be taken to a psychiatric for treatment and adjourned till November 14 for his arraignment.

The special sitting of the court, which held between Monday and Tuesday heard over a hundred cases.
A total of 111 persons were discharged / acquitted or had their cases struck out for lack of evidence to support the charges, while nine others were adjourned to Abuja.



Supreme Court Merges 2 Petitions seeking Philippines withdrawal from…

The Supreme Court (SC) has consolidated two petitions seeking to void the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

With this consolidation, the high court is set to conduct oral arguments for the petitions on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. at the SC New Session Hall, new SC Building, Padre Faura Street in Manila.

The SC also required the counsels for both parties to attend the preliminary conference for the oral argument on July 31 at the same venue.

The first petition was filed by opposition Senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Antonio Trillanes IV filed petition for certiorari and mandamus and said that under Article VII Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution, “entering into treaty or international agreement requires participation of Congress, that is, through concurrence of at least 2/3 of all the members of the Senate.”

Last week, de Lima, one of the petitioners, asked the SC to allow her to participate in the oral arguments.

“This Honorable Court is respectfully asked to take judicial notice of its practice of permitting members of Congress to appear before it and argue their cases,” de Lima said in her four-page manifestation with motion.

The detained senator is the lead counsel for the minority senators.

The lawmakers also asked the high court to compel the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations to notify the United Nations Secretary General that the Philippines is revoking the notice of withdrawal that it received last March 17.

The diplomatic note stated that the “decision to withdraw is the Philippines’ principled stand against those who politicize and weaponize human rights, even as its independent and well-functioning organs and agencies continue to exercise jurisdiction over complaints, issues, problems and concerns arising from its efforts to protect the people.”

The petitioners said the Rome Statute is a treaty validly entered into by the Philippines that has the same status as a law enacted by Congress.

In withdrawing its membership from the ICC, the petitioners claimed that the respondents committed usurpation of legislative powers, which is punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

The second petition was filed by the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC) led by former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales.

Named respondents in the petition were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Philippine Ambassador to the UN Teodoro Locsin Jr., and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo.

The respondents will be represented by the Office of the Solicitor General.

On March 14, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute, a United Nations (UN) treaty creating the ICC.

In the statement, Duterte cited “baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks” against him and his administration as the reason for his withdrawal as a state party.

“Given the baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person as well as against my administration, engineered by the officials of the United Nations, as well as the attempt by the International Criminal Court special prosecutor to place my person within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, in violation of due process and the presumption of innocence expressly guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution and recognized no less by the Rome Stature, I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as President of the Republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately,” the President said in a statement.

This came after ICC special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda began a preliminary examination on the alleged human rights violations amid the Duterte administration’s intensified war on drugs. (PNA)



31st AU Summit ends in Mauritania

The 31st African Union summit ended in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Monday with advisory decisions on Libya, Somalia and South Sudan.

Twenty two (22) African heads of states, four prime ministers and two foreign ministers attended the two-day summit.

In a statement, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council said international actors should resume their efforts to implement a UN plan which aims to secure stability, territorial integrity and security in Libya.

The statement emphasized the humanitarian conditions in South Sudan and said the parties should fulfil their obligations.

On Somalia, it said the AU supports activities of its federal government in the transition period, while tasking the UN to finance the AU’s mission in Somalia.

Chairperson of the AU and Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement was among issues that topped the summit’s agenda.

Kagame said five more countries signed the agreement.


Nigeria: Herdsmen Attack 11 Plateau Villages, kill More Than…

Plateau State was on Sunday thrown into mourning with the killing of 86 persons in the attacks on about 11 communities in the Gashish District by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

The Police Command in Plateau State had earlier on Sunday confirmed the attacks, saying it had only recovered 11 corpses from some of the villages. But residents had insisted that about 200 people were killed by the marauding herdsmen.

However, the police later issued a statement that indicated that the death toll in the attack on the communities in the Barkin Ladi Local Government Area on Saturday night had risen to 86. It added that six people were injured, 50 houses burnt, 15 motorcycles razed while two motor vehicles were torched.

The spokesperson for the Plateau State Police Command, Matthias Tyopev, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, in an updated statement issued on Sunday night, said the earlier 11 death toll in the attacks was due to the information at its disposal as of then before the arrival of the search and rescue team from the Barkin Ladi LGA.

Tyopev had identified the 11 corpses as Dalyop Vanode, Dom Danladi, Bururu Wade, Joju Rala,Titus Danladi, Bitrus Malat, Alu Matir, Noron Monday, Cecilia Yohana, Dam Bulus and Ladi Danladi.

He said, “Sequel to the attack in the Gashish District of Barkin Ladi LGA yesterday (Saturday) June 23, 2018, the Commissioner of Police, Plateau State Command, Jos, Undie Adie, after deploying more personnel in the district sent a search and rescue team from the Command headquarters today (Sunday) for an on-the-spot assessment.

“The team headed by ACP Edeh John of the Department of Operations had also the DPO of the Barkin Ladi Division and a Unit Commander from Mopol 38. After a careful search of the villages attacked in the District,  the following were discovered: 86 persons altogether were killed, six people injured, 50 houses burnt, 15 motorcycles and two motor vehicles also burnt.

“The team also carried out a detailed deployment. Corpses were released to the families for burial. The command earlier in the day confirmed only 11 people dead as the result of the attacks due to the information at its disposal before the arrival of the search and rescue team from the Barkin Ladi LGA. This is to update members of the public of the situation as regards the attacks in the Gashish District as promised earlier on.”

Also, there were fears that some soldiers were missing during the attack but the Commander of the Special Military Task Force codenamed Operation Safe Haven, Maj. Gen. Anthony Atolagbe, dismissed the report. He said, “it’s not true, no soldier died and no soldier is missing.”


SOURCE:  Punch.



The 2018 NGO-ICC roundtable held on the 14th of May  and lasted to the 19th at the Hague, Netherlands. members of several civil society organizations attended and deliberated on the way forward for the International Criminal Court after 20 years.

Peter Lewis the registrar of the court opened the round-table by reiterating the importance of the Rome Statute and the great spirit that saw to the establishment of the Court. Speaking on the role of  civil society organizations, he   stated that they play a crucial role  in supporting the court system and encouraged them not to relent as they are the conscience of the court and have continued to remind the court of its mission.

The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda  in her speech, stated that we must invigorate a firm commitment to stand by the values of the court and continue to  march forward in the fight against impunity for the worlds gravest crimes, she affirmed that international criminal justice is on the march and civil society organizations  should continue to support the court to enhance and empower its ability to demonstrate the full potential of the Rome Statute

On his part the president of the court Chile Osuji  stated that they is  rallying call for the world to amplify  its involvement in protecting and refreshing interest in the importance of the Rome Statute and call on everyone to do so as it is more urgent than ever..


Witness Tampering: Prosecutor Proposes Maximum Sentence for Bemba and…

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has proposed a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment for Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and his two former lawyers, who are due to receive fresh sentences for witness tampering. The prosecutor says she does not oppose the imposition of a monetary fine on the trio, who have up to the end of this month to make their own sentencing submissions.

Bemba and his former lawyers, Aimé Kilolo Musamba and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, will receive new sentences following the March 2018 reversal of their earlier sentences by an Appeals Chamber at the ICC.

In the initial sentencing in March 2017, Bemba was handed a one-year prison term and a fine of €300,000; Kilolo received a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence plus a fine of €30,000; while Mangenda was sentenced to 11 months in jail, suspended for two years.

However, the Appeals Chamber found that the trial chamber committed errors in assigning lower sentences to accessories to a crime rather than to co-perpetrators in suspending the sentences for Kilolo and Mangenda, and in assigning less gravity to false testimony on “non-merit” issues relative to false testimony on “merit” issues of a case.

Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber overturned Bemba and his lawyers’ conviction over presentation of false oral testimony but confirmed all the other convictions of giving false testimony and corruptly influencing witnesses.

In the April 30, 2018 sentencing submissions, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that, in deciding on the new sentences, the trial chamber should increase the individual and joint sentences for each of the three convicted persons to a five-year term of imprisonment.

Bensouda contends that the false testimony given by witnesses on “non-merits” issues was grave because the information was crucial for the judges in Bemba’s main trial to determine the credibility of witnesses and the reliability of their evidence.

The prosecutor argues that Bemba and Kilolo deserve a sentence that is commensurate with their criminal responsibility for having contributed to the false testimony of 14 of the 34 witnesses that testified for Bemba in his trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. She says Mangenda’s sentence should likewise reflect the true extent of his assistance to the false testimony of nine witnesses.

Article 70 of the Rome Statute on administration of justice, under which Bemba and his associates were convicted, provides that in the event of a conviction, judges may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, a fine, or both.

In the sentencing submissions, the prosecutor “welcomes” the imposition of a fine in addition to the five-year prison sentences. However, she notes that because the convicted persons’ financial situations are unclear, the trial chamber should determine whether such an additional fine should be imposed.

In addition, the prosecutor asks judges to order Kilolo and Mangenda back into custody to serve the new sentences imposed. The two were released from ICC detention in October 2014, having spent eleven months in pre-trial detention.

SOURCE:  International Justice  Monitor

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