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Hague court judges overturn ex-Congo VP Bemba's war crime convictions

10 June, 2018, 23:18 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • ICC overturns war crimes conviction of DRC's Bemba

On Friday 8 June 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for his involvement in the conflict in Central African Republic (CAR), which included a campaign of rape and sexual violence against women.

Bemba was the Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2003 to 2006, and in 2008 was arrested on request from the Hague.

Bemba was was one of only four people convicted by the permanent war crimes court in its 16 years of operation, and the highest ranking among them.

Still, she sought to claim something of a pyrrhic victory by noting that the judges did not deny Bemba's troops had committed atrocities "which resulted in great suffering in the Central African Republic". "Bozizé, the rebel who attacked a legitimate and legal government, never responded to the ICC", added another Bemba supporter.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the ICC's ruling was a "huge blow for the many victims" who had suffered during the war waged in the central African country.

"5,229 survivors of Bemba's atrocities participated in the ICC proceedings - for these fearless individuals, as well as thousands of other victims in auto, the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations will continue", he said.

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The message "to warlords seems to be: when you're not at the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and worst abominations, then say you had nothing to do with it, and we won't condemn you".

"This was the first ICC case with a major focus on the use of rape as a weapon of war", she said.

And the court found that Bemba bore the bulk of the responsibility for their actions.

Bemba was not released immediately on Friday despite his acquittal because he has also been convicted of witness tampering, and an appeals judgment in that case is still pending. They also disagreed with the majority that the Trial Chamber erred when it found that Mr Bemba had failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress MLC crimes; in their view, the majority reached this conclusion based on an incorrect standard of appellate review.

Mr. Bemba, once the leader of Congo's opposition, is expected to return to politics once released. His family was close to that of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Kabila was supposed to give up the presidency at the end of 2016 but he has clung to power, repeatedly putting off elections.

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