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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ICC prosecutor argues against release of Congo rebel leader Bemba
Jaclyn Belczyk at 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] on Monday filed arguments [text, PDF] against releasing former Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) [BBC backgrounder] rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archive]. The ICC ordered [JURIST report] Bemba's conditional release earlier this month, a decision which Moreno-Ocampo immediately appealed [press release]. In court documents filed Monday, Moreno-Ocampo argued that Bemba should remain in custody until the end of his trial, claiming:


The Decision finds that a substantial change of circumstances now warrants the release of the Accused. In fact, contrary to the Single Judge's conclusions, there has been no change of circumstances in the present case. Most of the circumstances cited are pre-existing and have been cited previously as either grounds for continued detention or irrelevant to an application for release. The only significant intervening factor, the issuance of the decision confirming the charges against the Accused, confirms and increases the risks posed by the Accused if released. The Single Judge's decision is thus error.

Moreno-Ocamp also noted that Bemba "continues to exercise authority over a network that he has previously relied on to locate and influence witnesses." The prosecutor requested that the release order be suspending pending consideration by the appeals chamber. No trial date has been set.

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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