14 June 2018

Congo-Kinshasa: Acquittal of Bemba a Blow to Victims

Photo: Radio Okapi
Le sénateur Jean-Pierre Bemba à la Haye.

Following the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Solomon Sacco, Head of the International Justice team at Amnesty International, said:

“The decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is an important reminder that international justice is only possible if all suspects receive stringently fair trials before an independent and impartial judiciary.

“While the Appeals Chamber has held that Mr Bemba was entitled to an acquittal, the decision will be felt as a huge blow for the many victims of the ‘war against women’ waged in the Central African Republic (CAR) through a horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence.

“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and judicial authorities in CAR must learn from this decision and redouble their efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of crimes under international law, with full respect for their rights to a fair trial.

“5229 survivors of Bemba’s atrocities participated in the ICC proceedings – for these brave individuals, as well as thousands of other victims in CAR, the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations will continue.”

Background

Today the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeal Trial Chambers acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, a Congolese national who was arrested in Belgium for his involvement in the conflict in Central African Republic.

Bemba was transferred to the ICC in July 2008 and charged with three counts of war crimes - murder, rape, and pillaging - and two counts of crimes against humanity - murder and rape. All the charges are related to the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) between 26 October 2002 and 15 March 2003.

On 21 March 2016, the judges of Trial Chamber III unanimously convicted Bemba of all charges. The conviction was based on the principle of command responsibility; the Trial Chamber found that Bemba knew that his militia troops were committing or about to commit crimes, but failed to take reasonable measures to deter or to punish these crimes.

On 21 June 2016, he was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

Bemba was also tried separately, alongside his lead defence lawyer, Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, and his case manager, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, as well as a member of the Congolese Parliament and a defence witness. In October 2016, all five men were found guilty under Article 70 of the Rome Statute for offenses against the administration of justice.

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Bemba's Release a 'Huge Blow for The Many Victims'

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