Criminal Court Annuls Sanction against Former Congo's Vice-President

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday upheld an appeal against the 2016 conviction of Democratic Republic of Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, had been convicted of murder, rape and pillage for actions of MLC troops he sent to Central African Republic to support that country's then-president Ange-Felix Patasse. He may not have murdered anyone with his own hands, but as the supreme commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo rebel forces, he is responsible for the crimes they committed.

Bemba was sentenced in 2016 to 18 years in prison.

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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.

"We find it regrettable and troubling", Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said. "More than 5,200 survivors of Bemba's atrocities participated in the ICC proceedings - for these courageous individuals, as well as thousands of other victims in auto, the pursuit of truth, justice and reparations will continue".

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.

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"The decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is an important reminder that global justice is only possible if all suspects receive stringently fair trials before an independent and impartial judiciary", the human rights agency said. And this evidence was also presented to the appeal court judges.

The 55 year old who fled DRC after losing a presidential poll was arrested in Belgium in 2008.

At the time of his original conviction, judges said that women, girls and men were targeted by Bemba's forces, often with multiple soldiers raping women and girls in front of family members.

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Following this Judgment, and while there is no reason to continue Mr Bemba's detention on the basis of the present case, it is for Trial Chamber VII to decide, shortly, whether Mr Bemba's continued detention is warranted in relation to his conviction for offences against the administration of justice.

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