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Friday, August 14, 2009

ICC orders conditional release of Congo rebel leader Bemba
Jaclyn Belczyk at 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday ordered the conditional release [text, PDF; press release] of former Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) [BBC backgrounder] rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archive], a decision which Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] announced he would appeal [press release]. The court found no evidence to suggest that Bemba would pose a danger, interfere with court proceedings, or fail to appear for trial. Bemba's defense counsel welcomed [recorded video] the court's ruling, but his release will be delayed indefinitely, as states that have been identified as potential hosts for Bemba have expressed concern about his presence. The prosecution is set to present arguments against his release on August 24.

Last month, the ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for the alleged commission of violent war crimes. The prosecution contends that Bemba's actions in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] as military leader of the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) [party website, in French] from October 2002 to May 2003 amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in May 2008 for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008. The proceedings against Bemba were initially postponed, but the pre-trial hearing [JURIST reports] to determine what charges the rebel leader is to face commenced in January. 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].






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