ICC overturns war crimes conviction of DRC's Bemba

Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

On Friday 8 June 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for his involvement in the conflict in Central African Republic (CAR), which included a campaign of rape and sexual violence against women. Furthermore, in the view of the Appeals Chamber majority, there was an apparent discrepancy between the limited number of crimes within the case's scope for which Mr Bemba was held responsible and the Trial Chamber's assessment of which measures Mr Bemba should have taken. However, Bemba will remain in prison pending a contempt case appeal, Reuters said.

He was accused of failing to prevent his rebels from raping and killing.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda described the ruling as "regrettable and troubling".

The global court on Friday overturned Bemba's war crimes conviction and 18-year prison sentence for alleged atrocities carried out by troops under his control in neighboring Central African Republic in 2002-2003, meaning he could be released in a matter of days.

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

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

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He was acquitted after the Court of Appeal found, with objections from two judges, that the previous sentence had wrongly convicted him of criminal acts not related to the charges held against him.

The two judges who disagreed wrote a dissenting opinion in which they said the acquittals were based on "an incorrect standard of appellate review", the court said.

The mention of candidacy raises the specter of a renewed rivalry between Bemba and the man who defeated him in that 2006 election, DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has spent 17 years in power.

He said Bemba would probably go to Belgium to meet with his family there before returning to Congo after he is released.

Following this Judgment, and while there is no reason to continue Mr Bemba's detention on the basis of the present case, it is for Trial Chamber VII to decide, shortly, whether Mr Bemba's continued detention is warranted in relation to his conviction for offences against the administration of justice.

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