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ibusinesslines.com October 18, 2018


International Court Throws Out War Crimes Conviction of Congolese Politician

10 June 2018, 08:15 | Erica Roy

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

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

He was one of just four people convicted by the war crimes court in its 16-year history, Reuters notes, and he was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

"Mr Bemba can not be held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by MLC troops during the Central African Republic operation", she said, reading the ruling of a 5-judge appeal panel.

Last year judges at the ICC added a year to Bemba's 18-year jail term for attempting to bribe witnesses during his war crimes trial. If Bemba, who has been behind bars for 10 years, actually takes on Kabila in an (electoral) fight, it's likely this battle will claim further victims.

During unrest in the auto between October 2002 to March 2003, troops with Bemba's Congolese Liberation Movement, or MLC, were found to have committed "the crimes against humanity of murder and rape and the war crimes of murder, rape and pillaging".

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

More than 5,200 victims participated in Bemba's trial. He sent fighters from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo to auto to suppress an attempted government coup.

Van den Wijngaert said Bemba's efforts to stop the crimes "extinguished his responsibility in full".


Bemba was convicted on March 21, 2016 of murder, rape and pillaging between October 2002 and March 2003, when militia troops of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), who were under his command were sent to neighboring Central African Republic to quell a coup attempt.

Friday's decision was greeted by cheers from his supporters in the gallery.

But the two dissenting judges wrote that the majority had used the wrong standards for review and that its findings were, therefore, deeply flawed.

The 55 year old who fled DRC after losing a presidential poll was arrested in Belgium in 2008.

Appeal judges also said he had been "erroneously" convicted for specific criminal acts.

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.

It remains unclear whether Bemba intends to return to the country after his release.



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