ICC overturns war crimes conviction of DRC's Bemba

Cheryl Sanders
June 10, 2018

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on Friday, made a decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and head of a rebel group in the country, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Bemba was convicted in 2016 on charges of having committed war crimes by allowing his forces to go on rampage in Central African Republic killing people in 2002 and 2003.

He was also acquitted of crimes against humanity.

The court heard how Bemba sent more than 1,000 fighters to vehicle back in 2002 to help then President Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.

"Mr Bemba can not be held criminally liable for the crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic", presiding judge Christine Van den Wyngaert told the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Reportedly, three of the five judges decided that he was convicted for crimes which had not been formally accused. Bemba's supporters erupted in cheers as the verdict was handed down, AFP reported.

The appeals court ruled that the trial court "erred in its evaluation of Mr. Bemba's motivation and the measures that he could have taken in light of the limitations he faced in investigating and prosecuting crimes as a remote commander sending troops to a foreign country".

"The carnage and suffering caused by those crimes are very real and they are recognized", she told journalists.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is seen in a court room of the ICC to hear the delivery of the judgment on charges including corruptly influencing witnesses by giving them money and instructions to provide false testimony and false evidence, in the Hague, the Netherlands, March 21, 2016.

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

The trial was the first before the ICC to focus on sexual violence as a weapon of war.

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

The court in The Hague also declared that it will now "urgently" supervise another case against Bemba for offenses to the administration of justice in which he was convicted, for which he is still in jail.

Still, Bemba's release appears inevitable, and it comes six months before a presidential election is due in his home country. He also is serving time for bribing witnesses during the initial trial. He entered government under current President Joseph Kabila in 2003 as part of a power-sharing deal that ended years of civil war.

Other reports by iNewsToday