Acquittal of former DRC Vice-President a 'huge blow' to victims

Leroy Wright
June 12, 2018

Jean-Pierre Bemba was on Friday acquited of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The sentence for witness tampering, however, is not likely to exceed the time already served by Mr. Bemba. But Van den Wyngaert said the 2016 panel "made serious errors" in considering whether Bemba took reasonable measures to prevent his subordinates from committing crimes once he became aware of them.

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

Mr. Bemba will, however, remain in detention on account of a different case in which he has been convicted of offences against the administration of justice, pending a decision of Trial Chamber VII, within the ICC.

However, appeal Judge Van den Wyngaert said the judges in the original case had "ignored significant testimonial evidence that Bemba's ability to investigate and punish crimes in vehicle was limited".

Friday's decision was greeted by cheers from his supporters in the gallery.

He had been convicted and sent to 18 years in prison in 2016.

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Prosecutors however also appealed, asking judges to increase Bemba's sentence to 25 years as it "did not reflect the gravity" of all the crimes.

Solomon Sacco, head of Amnesty International's worldwide justice team, said "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".

He was acquitted after the Court of Appeal found, with objections from two judges, that the previous sentence had wrongly convicted him of criminal acts not related to the charges held against him.

More than 5,000 survivors took part in the proceedings against Bemba, said Amnesty's head of worldwide justice, Solomon Sacco.

A wealthy businessman, Bemba was once a towering figure in business and politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

He said Bemba would probably go to Belgium to meet with his family there before returning to Congo after he is released.

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