Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Commanders' duty and the administration of justice

The following is excerpted from the ICC Appeals Chamber's judgment in Prosecutor v. Bemba Gombo (3-2 decision) (footnotes omitted):
180. Turning to the remainder of Mr [Jean-Pierre] Bemba [Gombo]’s arguments, the Appeals Chamber recalls that the Trial Chamber faulted the measures Mr Bemba took because they were limited in “mandate, execution, and/or results”. The Trial Chamber appears to have lost sight of the fact that the measures taken by a commander cannot be faulted merely because of shortfalls in their execution. When a commander establishes an independent commission, inquiry or judicial process – of which he or she is not part – it must be left to freely fulfill its mandate. Whilst limitations in the results of an inquiry might be attributable to the manner of its establishment (for example, through deliberate exclusion or limitation of mandate), this is not necessarily so. It is important to establish, in this regard: (i) that the shortcomings of the inquiry were sufficiently serious; (ii) that the commander was aware of the shortcomings; (iii) that it was materially possible to correct the shortcomings; and (iv) that the shortcomings fell within his or her authority to remedy. The Trial Chamber did not make this assessment in the present case. 
181. In finding that there were “indications that all [the] measures were limited in mandate, execution, and/or results”, the Trial Chamber implies that this was attributed to Mr Bemba. However, without undertaking the necessary assessment set out in the preceding paragraph, this could not be made out without a finding that Mr Bemba purposively limited the mandates of the commissions and inquiries. Yet, the Trial Chamber made no such finding as to the sham nature of the measures.

182. The Trial Chamber also faulted Mr Bemba for having failed to empower other MLC officials to fully and adequately investigate and prosecute allegations of crimes as a result of which he could not be said to have submitted the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution. However, the Trial Chamber cited no evidence in support of this finding. In addition, this finding appears to be in contradiction with the Trial Chamber’s finding that “Colonel Moustapha and the other MLC Commanders also had some disciplinary authority in the field”. The Trial Chamber failed to explain this apparent contradiction and its finding as to the lack of empowerment of other MLC officials, hence it appears unreasonable. Moreover, given that finding, the Trial Chamber failed to explain what more Mr Bemba should have done to empower other MLC officials to fully and adequately investigate and prosecute allegations of crimes and how he fell short in that regard.
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192. Indeed, in faulting the results of measures taken by Mr Bemba, the Trial Chamber failed to appreciate that, as a remote commander, Mr Bemba was not part of the investigations and was not responsible for the results generated. Had it done so, the Trial Chamber’s assessment of the measures Mr Bemba had taken would have been necessarily different. It must also be noted that the 2002-2003 CAR Operation was conducted within the short space of a few months, which notwithstanding, Mr Bemba took numerous measures in response to crimes committed by MLC troops. In this regard, the Appeals Chamber recalls that the Trial Chamber failed to properly establish how many crimes had been committed.

193. Had the Trial Chamber properly assessed the measures that Mr Bemba took and had the Trial Chamber properly considered the list of measures that it stated that Mr Bemba could have taken in light of the limitations that he faced in the specific circumstances in which he was operating, it would not have been open to it to reach the same conclusion. The errors the Trial Chamber made resulted in an unreasonable assessment of whether Mr Bemba failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures in the circumstances existing at the time.
A separate concurring opinion by Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji has not yet been posted. Judges Sanji Mmasenono Monageng and Piotr Hofmański dissented. Paragraphs 79-85 of their joint opinion address issues related to the administration of justice. Subject to reading the concurrence, the Editor is inclined to believe the dissenting judges got this case right. 

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