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

10 June, 2018, 20:14 | Author: Wade Massey
  • ICC overturns war crimes conviction of DRC's Bemba

Presiding Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert said Bemba can not be held accountable for the actions of his rebels, who raped, pillaged and murdered in 2002 and 2003.

"We find it regrettable and troubling", Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

The Appeals Chamber also dismissed as moot the appeals that Mr Bemba and the Prosecutor had brought against the sentence Trial Chamber III had imposed.

Jean-Pierre Bemba's supporters celebrate at the Congolese Liberation Movement, or MLC, headquarters upon learning Friday's verdict in Kinshasa.

Christine Van den Wijngaert also said the judges in the 2016 case had failed to take into account his attempts to stop the crimes once he was made aware they were taking place.

It is obviously hard to judge crimes that were committed at a different time and on a different continent, and of course Bemba was not on-site when the crimes were being committed.

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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.

More than 5,000 survivors took part in the proceedings against Bemba, said Amnesty's head of global justice, Solomon Sacco.

Bemba was convicted in 2016 on charges of having committed war crimes by allowing his forces to go on rampage in Central African Republic killing people in 2002 and 2003. He sent fighters from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo to vehicle to suppress an attempted government coup. And this evidence was also presented to the appeal court judges. Jean-Pierre Bemba's conviction was one of their few victories and celebrated at the time as a warning to other leaders that they could be held liable for the actions of troops under their command, even when they're committing atrocities on foreign soil.

At the time of his original conviction, judges said that women, girls and men were targeted by Bemba's forces, often with multiple soldiers raping women and girls in front of family members.

Van den Wyngaert said Bemba would not immediately be released because a separate panel of ICC judges is still considering what sentence he should be given in a conviction for interfering with witnesses in his trial.

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