International Court Throws Out War Crimes Conviction of Congolese Politician

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has overturned the conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity of former Democratic Republic of Congo Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba. "They went to the very heart of a commander's culpability, namely his responsibility to ensure that when put in the knowledge of crimes he takes steps to investigate them and punish them". The decision comes ahead of the country's contentious December 23 elections and could likely provide Bemba with the opportunity to be an influential contender or even presidential candidate.

"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 through a horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence, " said Sacco, who heads the International Justice team at the organization.

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

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) from 2002 to 2003.

'The Court of Appeals concluded by a majority that Bemba can not be considered responsible for the crimes committed by the MLC troops during the operation carried out in the RCA and must be acquitted, ' says the text of the final ruling of the ICC.

Bemba's conviction marked several milestones for the ICC.

Bemba had sent his militia, the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), into the auto in October 2002 to quash a coup against the then president, Ange-Felix Patasse.

"This was the first ICC case with a major focus on the use of rape as a weapon of war", she added.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said that Bemba had the right to return home if released, Reuters reported.

Bemba has been in custody at the ICC for almost a decade after authorities in Belgium arrested him there in 2008 and sent him to The Hague.

Reportedly, three of the five judges decided that he was convicted for crimes which had not been formally accused. The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in January that half its population was in need of humanitarian aid, while the United Nations has had a peacekeeping force in the country since 2013.

"I cry with joy because Jean-Pierre Bemba was a dead man".

But the acquittal is a blow for prosecutors.

The judges ruled that he should not have been held liable as a remote commander for crimes committed by his troops in a foreign country.

Human rights groups are already saying the prosecution must learn from its failures and do more to ensure their evidence can stand up in court.

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