By Sophie van Leeuwen
Jean-Pierre Bemba is angry and disappointed. Yesterday, the International Criminal Court found him guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic (2002-2003). Justice Hub spoke to his laywer, Peter Haynes.
Q: What sentence do you expect?
“Mr Bemba did not kill anybody. He did not rape anybody. He was quite at a distance. There is a lot of jurisprudence about the sort of sentence that is appropriate to give people as commanders. We hope that this case stays within the parameters of existing jurisprudence.”
Q: How many years of prison?
“Not twenty years. It’s below that. There are limits. You can’t give everybody life imprisonment because then anybody who comes to the ICC gets life imprisonment, regardless of what they do. You can’t reflect the gravity of the more serious offence.
“I’ve been at the ICTY and the ICTR. We’ve done many command cases, and we’ve got a fairly clear idea of what we think should be an appropriate sentence.”
Q: Will you appeal?
“Having convicted Mr Bemba of absolutely everything, I can’t imagine the prosecution will appeal any aspect of the conviction. So it’s only going to be us.”
Q: What made the trial complex?
“It extends the notion of command responsibility to a level that has never been seen before. You have a commander whose troops were fighting for somebody else. It’s legally complex.
“Then his lawyers got arrested and locked up, accused of witness interference. I think the Court is anticipating on a very long appeal process.”
Q: How’s Bemba doing?
“Ik think he’s alright. He has been in custody for eight years. I observed people like Bemba either accept their faith and say: this is a phase of my life I’ve got to deal with, or they don’t. Bemba recognises that he’s stuck here, that many aspects of his life are on hold.
“He’s disappointed, even angry about what happened. But it’s round one. These cases nowadays are decided by eight judges. We’ve just heard the view of the first three. That’s the way he looks at it.”
Q: What’s his life in prison like?
“He plays the piano. He has a dummy keyboard which he plugs headphones into. It’s one of the things he does to relax. And he paints. Don’t ask me about my view on his paintings. I’ve seen a few.”
“He’s a big man. He’s been very careful about his weight in detention. And he plays football. He’s always advising me about my health. And he has a lot of visitors.”
Lead image: Members of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC party (Photo: Sophie van Leeuwen/Justice Hub)
Senior Trial Laywer James Steward, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Peter Haynes, Lead Counsel for the defence in a courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on 21 March 2016 for the delivery of the judgment of the case against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gomba (Photo: Jerry Lampen/Pool)