Congo government says Jean Pierre Bemba has the right to return home

Congo government says Jean Pierre Bemba has the right to return home

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba on Friday will hear the outcome of an appeal against his landmark conviction and 18-year sentence for war crimes committed by his private army in Central African Republic (CAR).

In June 2016, Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

'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.

In 2002, the then CAR President Ange-Félix Patassé, had invited Bemba, who was the Movement of Liberation of the Congo (MLC) President and Commander-in-Chief, to the country to prevent a coup.

In a 3-2 ruling the divided court overturned Bemba's five-count conviction, which was unanimously handed down in 2016.

Furthermore, in the view of the Appeals Chamber majority, there was an apparent discrepancy between the limited number of crimes within the case's scope for which Mr. Bemba was held responsible and the Trial Chamber's assessment of which measures he should have taken.

But what exactly was Bemba accused of? "Bozizé, the rebel who attacked a legitimate and legal government, never responded to the ICC", added another Bemba supporter.

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

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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.

"Twenty years after its creation, has the ICC just scuttled itself?" she said in a statement.

Bemba's case had been seen as cementing the precedent that officials may be held liable for the actions of troops under their command.

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

But what is clear is that this release will not be immediate: He was also convicted of a separate charge, witness tampering, and his appeal of that verdict remains in process.

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

The son of a businessman, Bemba amassed considerable wealth during the military dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, whose 30-year rule ended shortly before his death in 1997.

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