Bemba re­leased be­fore war crimes trial

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

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

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