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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Former Congo rebel leader arrested in Belgium on ICC warrant
Andrew Gilmore at 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Jean-Pierre Bemba [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], a former rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive], was arrested [ICC press release] Saturday by Belgian authorities at his home outside of Brussels, after the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued a sealed warrant [PDF, in French; decision to unseal, PDF, in French] for his arrest on Friday. The ICC indicted Bemba for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which were allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003. Prosecutors claim he is responsible for rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity, and pillaging. Bemba's arrest warrant is the first issued by the ICC in its investigation of large-scale sexual offenses [ICC press release] in the CAR. AP has more.

Bemba was elected to the Congolese Senate after losing a run-off presidential election [JURIST report] to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile], who in December 2006 became the first freely-elected president of the DRC since 1960. After the election, Bemba's private militia force led a violent campaign against government troops until the DRC Supreme Court rejected his election challenge [JURIST report]. In the process, Bemba's supporters set fire to the Supreme Court building [JURIST report]. Following the clashes, the chief prosecutor of the DRC issued a warrant for Bemba's arrest [JURIST report], and he fled to Europe. A court in CAR referred the war crimes charges [JURIST report] for which Bemba was arrested Saturday to the ICC in April 2006.

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