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Congo government says Jean Pierre Bemba has the right to return home

10 June 2018

Jean-Pierre Bemba was on Friday acquited of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still in prison after his conviction was overturned because he is serving time for witness tampering.

Furthermore, in the view of the Appeals Chamber majority, there was an apparent discrepancy between the limited number of crimes within the case's scope for which Mr. Bemba was held responsible and the Trial Chamber's assessment of which measures he should have taken.

On 21 March 2016, the judges of Trial Chamber III unanimously convicted Bemba of all charges.

He was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people.

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"We find it regrettable and troubling", Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

But human rights group Amnesty International said it was a "huge blow" for the victims of a "horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence", as it called on the authorities to redouble their efforts to prosecute those who had carried it out.

Bemba was the most senior suspect convicted by the global court and his 18-year sentence was the highest handed down in the court's history.

It is obviously hard to judge crimes that were committed at a different time and on a different continent, and of course Bemba was not on-site when the crimes were being committed.

It was celebration galore on the streets of DRC's capital Kinshasa as residents welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision on former VP Jean Pierre Bemba.

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The court heard how Bemba sent more than 1,000 fighters to vehicle back in 2002 to help then President Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.

However, appeal Judge Van den Wyngaert said the judges in the original case had "ignored significant testimonial evidence that Bemba's ability to investigate and punish crimes in auto was limited".

Following this Judgment, and while there is no reason to continue Mr Bemba's detention on the basis of the present case, it is for Trial Chamber VII to decide, shortly, whether Mr Bemba's continued detention is warranted in relation to his conviction for offences against the administration of justice.

Appeal judges also said he had been "erroneously" convicted for specific criminal acts.

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Congo government says Jean Pierre Bemba has the right to return home