Monday, 22 October, 2018

Congo gov't says Jean Pierre Bemba has the right to return home

Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague
Jeannette Daniel | 10 June, 2018, 20:18

Scroll through for the crimes that saw Bemba at the ICC for the last few years.

It was celebration galore on the streets of DRC's capital Kinshasa as residents welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision on former VP Jean Pierre Bemba.

The trial two years ago of the court in The Hague considered the guerrilla leader guilty of the aforementioned crimes during actions of his militia, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), between October 2002 and March 2003.

However, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC ruled that he could not be held responsible for crimes committed by his troops.

Judge Monageng and Judge Hofmański found that all criminal acts for which Mr Bemba was convicted fell within the scope of the case that the Prosecutor had brought against him.

His acquittal could revive a moribund opposition in Congo, where President Joseph Kabila, still in power after his mandate ran out in Dec 2016, looks likely to seek a third term on a legal technicality or by changing the constitution.

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Mr. Bemba, once the leader of Congo's opposition, is expected to return to politics once released.

Bemba ran against Kabila in 2006 elections that went to a run-off between them before Kabila won.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda described the ruling as "regrettable and troubling". She noted that judges did not deny Bemba's troops had committed atrocities "which resulted in great suffering in the Central African Republic". It was the first time the court had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command.

In a separate case, he was convicted of coaching and bribing witnesses to give false testimony during his trial and is waiting for a decision on that sentence. That original verdict, rendered in March 2016, had determined that Bemba "failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress the commission of crimes by his subordinates".

It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released.

But human rights group Amnesty International said it was a "huge blow" for the victims of a "horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence", as it called on the authorities to redouble their efforts to prosecute those who had carried it out.

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