19 October 2010

Central African Republic: ICC Gives Go Ahead for Bemba Trial

The war crimes tribunal of Jean-Pierre Bemba can proceed, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday, after it rejected the former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president's bid to have the case dismissed.

Bemba is accused of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.

The 47-year-old has been charged for acts of murder, rape and pillaging allegedly carried out by members of his Congolese Liberation Movement. The group had been helping troops of CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse to resist a coup attempt.

Bemba was arrested in Brussels in May 2008 on an International Criminal Court warrant. His trial was due to start on 27 April but has been postponed three times.

Judges had been awaiting Tuesday's ruling by ICC appeals judge Anita Usacka before setting a new trial date.

The defence had argued that having already been charged in the CAR, Bemba could not be tried again for the same crime. The CAR's investigation was abandoned in September 2004 on the grounds that Bemba enjoyed diplomatic immunity as vice president of the DRC.

Bemba left the DRC in April 2007, shortly after losing to Joseph Kabila in a presidential election. Following his arrest in Brussels, he was transferred to The Hague in July 2008.

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