Bemba released before war crimes trial
THE HAGUE: The International Criminal Court yesterday ordered the release of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ex-vice president JeanPierre Bemba before his war crimes trial, but deferred a decision on where he should go.
“Today, August 14, 2009, PreTrial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court decided to grant the request of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for interim release, albeit under conditions,” said a court statement. “The continued detention of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo did not appear necessary ... to ensure the appearance of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo at trial” on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic.
The court added there was no reason to believe Bemba would obstruct the investigation or commit crime.
Bemba’s release was put on hold pending a determination of which state would take him in, and a ruling on conditions.
The court invited Belgium, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and South Africa, states to which Bemba had been asked to be released, to provide “observations” on the issue and “any possible set of conditions restricting liberty to be imposed”. Hearings for this purpose were scheduled for September 7-14.
Bemba, 46, asked the court in June to free him pending his trial on three charges of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity for atrocities allegedly committed in the Central African Republic from October 2002 to March 2003.
The court decided earlier that month that he would stand trial in his capacity as military commander for acts of murder, rape and pillaging allegedly committed by members of his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), and not as a co-perpetrator.
The prosecution has appealed against that decision, and no trial date has been set.
The International Coalition for the ICC, a network of 2 500 civil society groups that support the court, has criticised the decision to set Bemba free.
It said in a statement that it came “as a shock for the victims as their torturer is to be set free”. – Sapa-AFP