ICC Acquits DR Congo’s Former Vice President Bemba on Appeal
Jean-Pierre Bemba Not Criminally Liable
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has acquitted former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and cancelled his 18-year sentence for war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The acquittal was announced by international war crimes judges on Friday.
Presiding judge Christine Van den Wyngaert told the International Criminal Court in The Hague that “Bemba cannot be held criminally liable for the crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic”.
“The Appeals Chamber in this instant reverses the conviction against Mr Bemba… and in relation to the remaining criminal acts it enters an acquittal,” Van den Wyngaert said.
Two years ago (in 2016), the ICC convicted Bemba of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The crimes were committed when Bemba sent Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) troops in CAR for about five months in October 2002.
Former CAR president Ange-Felix Patasse had invited Bemba’s militia to help deal with a coup against him.
But today, the ICC judges found that Bemba’s sentence was erroneous.
The judges ruled that the trial bench was wrong in their finding that Bemba could in fact prevent crimes being committed by his MLC troops.
“The trial chamber ignored significant testimonial evidence that Mr Bemba’s ability to investigate and punish crimes in the CAR was limited.”
Meanwhile, Bemba is not yet free.
Court slapped a one-year sentence on Bemba for bribing witnesses during his trial over war crimes. .
The ICC is yet to deBemba lost an appeal against that sentence, but the ICC still has to decide whether a new jail term will be imposed.
Van den Wyngaert said judges would “shortly [decide] whether Mr Bemba’s continued detention is warranted”.
Additional Reporting: Courtesy