Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Congolese ex-Vice President Acquitted of War Crimes

Congolese ex-Vice President Acquitted of War Crimes

The International Criminal Court on Friday overturned the conviction of former Congolese leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who had been sentenced to 18 years in prison for war crimes in the Central African Republic.

We will remind, on June 21, 2016 the worldwide criminal court in the Hague sentenced a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison.

Reuters reports that a judge has now said Bemba can not be held responsible for the actions of his forces who went on rampage in Central African Republic killing people in 2002 and 2003.

In a 3-2 majority ruling on Friday, the court's appeals chamber reversed some of his convictions and acquitted him on other charges, saying the trial chamber in his case made a series of errors in its analysis of his role as a commanding officer and in other aspects of the case. That original verdict, rendered in March 2016, had determined that Bemba "failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or repress the commission of crimes by his subordinates".

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

Haynes, the lawyer, was angry that Bemba was not released immediately.

"There's not even any question over it", Mende told Reuters by telephone.

Judge Christine Van den Wijngaert said Bemba, once the leader of Congo's main opposition party, could not be held responsible for crimes carried out by troops under his control in Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003. The judges in the minority would have confirmed Mr Bemba's conviction. In one incident, a man's wife was gang-raped and when he protested he, too, was raped at gunpoint.

And the court found that Bemba bore the bulk of the responsibility for their actions.

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

It remains unclear whether Bemba intends to return to the country after his release. Haynes said he likely would join his family in Belgium. He entered government under current President Joseph Kabila in 2003 as part of a power-sharing deal that ended years of civil war.

Frustration is rising in Congo against Kabila as the presidential election has been delayed since late 2016.

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