Congo warlord, Jean-Pierre Bemba's conviction overturned

ICC overturns former DRC Vice President's war crimes conviction

ICC overturns former DRC Vice President's war crimes conviction

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

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

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.

In a separate trial, Bemba was sentenced in March 2017 to one year in jail and fined 300,000 euros ($350,000) for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

It was celebration galore on the streets of DRC's capital Kinshasa as residents welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision on former VP Jean Pierre Bemba. Bemba's supporters in the packed public gallery were not so reserved; they cheered, whistled and hugged one another for so long that Van den Wyngaert threatened to halt proceedings if order was not restored. He denied responsibility for the crimes.

Dismissing his 18-year-sentence, she said trial judges had failed to consider his efforts to stop crimes committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) once he became aware of them, and how hard it would have been for him to control the troops' actions from a distance.

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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.

Judges are to decide "shortly whether Mr Bemba's continued detention is warranted", Van den Wyngaert said.

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

"Twenty years after its creation, has the ICC just scuttled itself?" she said in a statement. Haynes said he likely would join his family in Belgium.

Mr. Bemba, once the leader of Congo's opposition, is expected to return to politics once released.

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