Thursday, 16 August, 2018

Bemba war crimes conviction overturned

ICC acquits DR Congo's Bemba on appeal ICC acquits DR Congo's Bemba on appeal
Kenny Thornton | 12 June, 2018, 14:43

Bemba was sentenced in 2016 to 18 years in prison, after being convicted of charges of murder, rape and pillaging in the Central African Republic (CAR) during a 2002-2003 coup.

The ICC, headquartered in the Netherlands, in 2016 convicted Bemba for the war crimes after a six-year trial, saying he knew about the war crimes.

Bemba, who was vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003 to 2006, was then ordered to pay a $323,670.00 fine to the court's fund supporting victims of atrocities. But Van den Wyngaert said the 2016 panel "made serious errors" in considering whether Bemba took reasonable measures to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes once he became aware of them.

In a separate trial, Bemba was sentenced in March 2017 to one year in jail and fined 300,000 euros ($350,000) for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

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.

At an appeal hearing Bemba's lawyers argued that he did not maintain effective control over his troops because there was no physical evidence that he gave any orders nor that he was present on the ground.

Bemba, wearing a suit and tie, showed little emotion as Presiding Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert reversed his convictions.

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But a judge has now said he can not be held responsible for their actions.

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

Bemba was the highest ranking politician convicted by the permanent war crimes court, and his case had been seen as establishing a precedent that political and military officials may be held liable for the actions of troops under their command.

They also asked the judges to lower his sentence, given that he has already spent close to a decade behind bars at the ICC's detention centre in The Hague.

Sacco said the ICC prosecutor's office and judicial authorities in vehicle "must learn from this decision and redouble their efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes under worldwide law".

Prominent Congolese opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi, speaking at an Atlantic Council event last month in Washington, said Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo was part of a new political alliance against President Joseph Kabila.

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