Jean-Pierre Bemba: Congo warlord's conviction overturned :: Kenya

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

On Friday, June 8, the appellate court of the global criminal court in the Hague acquitted the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba, who two years ago was sentenced to 18 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, reports DW.

This legal body decreed the acquittal of the politician of the Democratic Republic of the Congo accused in 2016 of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), added Judge Christine van den Wyngaert.

In 2016, Mr. Bemba was originally sentenced to 18 years in prison, after the Chamber found him "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" as a military commander responsible for two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) committed in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.

She noted that judges did not deny Bemba's troops had committed atrocities "which resulted in great suffering in the Central African Republic".

Bemba was was one of only four people convicted by the permanent war crimes court in its 16 years of operation, and the highest ranking among them.

Bemba ran against Kabila in 2006 elections that went to a run-off between them before Kabila won.

Bemba's case had been seen as cementing the precedent that officials may be held liable for the actions of troops under their command. If Bemba, who has been behind bars for 10 years, actually takes on Kabila in an (electoral) fight, it's likely this battle will claim further victims.

It remains unclear whether Bemba intends to return to the country after his release.

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.

But human rights group Amnesty International said it was a "huge blow" for the victims of a "horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence", as it called on the authorities to redouble their efforts to prosecute those who had carried it out.

The message "to warlords seems to be: when you're not at the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and worst abominations, then say you had nothing to do with it, and we won't condemn you".

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