ICC overturns Bemba’s 18-year sentence over war crimes

ICC overturns Bemba’s 18-year sentence over war crimes

ICC overturns Bemba’s 18-year sentence over war crimes

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has reversed the conviction of the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity two years ago.

Bemba was the Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2003 to 2006, and in 2008 was arrested on request from the Hague.

But the ICC has overturned his 2016 conviction by upholding his appeal against that ruling.

Friday's ruling does not mean those crimes did not take place, but that Bemba can not be held criminally responsible for them.

But what exactly was Bemba accused of?

Bemba's supporters back in the DRC, meanwhile, celebrated the decision as a vindication.

More specifically, the Trial Chamber 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; in whether he made efforts to refer the allegations of crimes to the CAR's authorities; and in whether he intentionally limited the mandate of commissions and inquiries that he established.

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

But in a scathing assessment, the Hague-based ICC's appeal judges said Bemba was "erroneously" convicted for specific criminal acts.

Amnesty International called the acquittal "a blow" to the victims.

"For these courageous individuals, as well as thousands of other victims in auto, the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations will continue", he added.

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

And the court found that Bemba bore the bulk of the responsibility for their actions. It was the first time the court had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command.

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. "Delivering this judgment, it seems to say to the warlords: 'As long as you are not on the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and the worst abominations, say that you have nothing to do with that and we will not condemn you'".

More than 5,200 victims participated in Bemba's trial.

He said Bemba would probably go to Belgium to meet with his family there before returning to Congo after he is released. He entered government with Kabila in 2003 as part of a power-sharing deal that ended years of civil war.

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