International Criminal Court trial of former DR Congo leader to start next April
The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced today that the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, a former senior official of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who has been charged with war crimes, will begin in April 2010.
Mr. Bemba, the former Congolese Vice President, faces charges for alleged crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003, including rape, murder and pillaging.
Judges at the Hague-based ICC found that Mr. Bemba had the “necessary criminal intent” when in 2002 he ordered his armed group, the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), into CAR to back up embattled leader Ange-Félix Patassé.
According to the Court, MLC fighters committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on that mission, with Mr. Bemba “effectively acting as military commander.”
He was transferred to the ICC in July 2008 after being arrested by Belgian police. In September, the Court decided that Mr. Bemba will remain in custody until the start of his trial, reversing an earlier decision to grant him temporary conditional release.
The situation in CAR is one of four – along with Darfur, DRC and Uganda – currently under investigation by the Prosecutor of the ICC, an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.