Thursday, 19 July, 2018


Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba has war crimes conviction overturned

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
Bennie Garza | 10 June, 2018, 21:57

More than two years after an worldwide tribunal convicted Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has seen those convictions overturned on appeal.

Presiding judge Christine Van den Wijngaert on Friday, said the former vice-president and leader of the country's main opposition party could not be held responsible for crimes committed by troops under his control in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

He had been convicted of murder, rape and pillage for actions by fighters he sent to Central African Republic to back CAR's then-president Ange-Felix Patasse.

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court ruled Friday that the lower court decision had "made serious errors" when it found Bemba responsible for the violent crimes his militia carried out in the Central African Republic in the early 2000s.

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.

Fiona McKay of the Open Society Justice Initiative said the decision was a "major blow" to Bensouda's office "given the vast resources that have been devoted to this case, which has lasted for more than 10 years".

The sentence for witness tampering, however, is not likely to exceed the time already served by Mr. Bemba.

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.

It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released. He entered government under current President Joseph Kabila in 2003 as part of a power-sharing deal that ended years of civil war.

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". "Delivering this judgment, it seems to say to the warlords: 'As long as you are not on the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and the worst abominations, say that you have nothing to do with that and we will not condemn you'".

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