Congo Watch: ICC seeks new charges for Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba

Friday, March 06, 2009

ICC seeks new charges for Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba

March 6, 2009 THE HAGUE (AFP) —
ICC seeks new charges for Congo warlord
International Criminal Court judges asked prosecutors Thursday to refile charges against ex-DR Congo vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba so he can be tried for war crimes as a military, rather than political commander.

The court has "decided to adjourn (January's) confirmation of charges hearing... and to ask the prosecutor to consider submitting an amended document," a statement on the court's website said.

"In the decision of 4 March 2009, the Chamber indicates that the evidence submitted by the prosecutor appears to establish that a different crime, within the jurisdiction of the court, was committed."

The judges consider that the facts of the case "may amount to a different type of responsibility, namely the criminal liability as a commander or superior."

Lawyers for Bemba said in the January hearing that members of his militia group accused of atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR) were not under his command.

They argued before the court in The Hague that the men, deployed in 2002 to help put down a coup, were under the command of then-CAR president Ange Felix Patasse.

The court has given the defence until 24 April 2009 to respond, with an opportunity for alleged victims to make submissions first.

Bemba -- a former DR Congo vice-president and presidential election loser in 2006 -- held a dual role as president and commander-in-chief of his Movement for the Liberation of Congo.

The former role may not allow the prosecution sufficient leeway to establish criminal responsibility.

The MLC entered the Central African Republic in an unsuccessful bid to stave off a coup against Patasse.

ICC prosecutors allege they committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape, torture and murder while on Central African territory.

The 46-year-old Bemba, who fled DR Congo in April 2007, was arrested on 24 May 2008 by Belgian authorities and transferred to the ICC on 3 July.

The prosecution is seeking to hold Bemba criminally responsible for five counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity including rape, torture and murder, committed on the territory of Central African Republic from October 2002 to March 2003.

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