Arusha, November 25, 2013 (FH) –International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Sunday she has issued five arrest warrants for witness tampering in the case of Congolese Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba, including against Bemba himself.

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A press release from the Prosecutor’s office said police in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and the Democratic Republic of Congo arrested the other four individuals on November 23 and 24. Bemba is already in the custody of the ICC, which has been trying him since November 2010 for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

“Persons arrested pursuant to the current warrant of arrest are Messrs. Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Narcisse Arido and Fidèle Babala Wandu,” said the Proceutor’s statement. “National procedures are on-going for their surrender to the Court.    “The individuals arrested include, amongst others, members of the defence team of Mr. Bemba.  It is particularly disturbing that a member of the legal profession is alleged to have intentionally and systematically participated in criminal activities aimed at undermining the administration of justice.”

She also thanked the national authorities concerned for their cooperation in the four arrests. 

With regard to the additional charges against Bemba himself, the statement says the Prosecutor’s office alleges it is Bemba himself who has “ordered, solicited and induced these attempts to pervert the course of justice in relation to his on-going trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.

Attempting to corruptly influence witnesses or tamper with evidence is a criminal offence under Article 70 of the ICC Statute and can lead to imprisonment of up to five years on conviction, or a fine, or both.

This is the second time in its history that the ICC has issued arrest warrants for contempt of court in connection with alleged witness tampering, both in the space of less than two months. In early October the Court unsealed an arrest warrant against Kenyan Walter Barasa on similar allegations linked to the Kenyan cases before the ICC.