International Court Throws Out War Crimes Conviction of Congolese Politician

Clay Curtis
June 12, 2018

Jean-Pierre Bemba was on Friday acquited of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003. Bemba's efforts to stop the crimes "extinguished his responsibility in full".

Bemba led the MLC party in the Democratic Republic of Congo and later became one of the country's four vice presidents in 2003 as part of a transitional government.

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

She noted that judges did not deny Bemba's troops had committed atrocities "which resulted in great suffering in the Central African Republic".

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.

Van den Wyngaert said it was up to the trial chamber to decide whether to release Bemba from his 18-year sentence.

Responding to the acquittal, Solomon Sacco, Head of the International Justice team at Amnesty International, said: "This decision will be felt as a huge blow for the many victims of the "war against women" waged in auto". And this evidence was also presented to the appeal court judges.

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Congolese rebel warlord and Democratic Republic of Congo Vice President Jean -Pierre Bemba attends a court session.

Friday's ruling does not mean those crimes did not take place, but that Bemba can not be held criminally responsible for them.

However, appeal Judge Van den Wyngaert said the judges in the original case had "ignored significant testimonial evidence that Bemba's ability to investigate and punish crimes in vehicle was limited".

According to a news release issued by the ICC, the Appeals Chamber found, by majority, that the Court's Trial Chamber III - which delivered the original sentence - had "erred on two important issues", including the wrongful conviction of Mr. Bemba "for specific criminal acts that were outside the scope of the charges as confirmed".

"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.

Karine Bonneau of the International Federation for Human Rights slammed Friday's decision.

In 2006, he lost a presidential run-off against young Joseph Kabila, son of the late leader.

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