Jean-Pierre Bemba ruling a blow for victims - and for Joseph Kabila

Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Jean-Pierre Bemba in the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

And the court found that Bemba bore the bulk of the responsibility for their actions.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called the appeal decision "regrettable and troubling".

"The decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is an important reminder that global justice is only possible if all suspects receive stringently fair trials before an independent and impartial judiciary", Amnesty International's Solomon Sacco said in a statement Friday.

Reuters reports that a judge has now said Bemba can not be held responsible for the actions of his forces who went on rampage in Central African Republic killing people in 2002 and 2003.

This legal body decreed the acquittal of the politician of the Democratic Republic of the Congo accused in 2016 of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), added Judge Christine van den Wyngaert.

The Appeals Chamber also dismissed as moot the appeals that Mr Bemba and the Prosecutor had brought against the sentence Trial Chamber III had imposed.

The two judges who disagreed wrote a dissenting opinion in which they said the acquittals were based on "an incorrect standard of appellate review", the court said.


Next to the understandable rage of the victims, there is another very important aspect: If Bemba is released soon, as is expected, he will actively take a hand in Congo's politics.

The 55 year old who fled DRC after losing a presidential poll was arrested in Belgium in 2008.

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.

At the time of his original conviction, judges said that women, girls and men were targeted by Bemba's forces, often with multiple soldiers raping women and girls in front of family members.

Bemba, who has already spent nearly a decade in jail, will not be immediately released from detention in The Hague after he lost a separate appeal against a conviction for bribing witnesses.

"Twenty years after its creation, has the ICC just scuttled itself?" she said in a statement.

It remains unclear whether Bemba intends to return to the country after his release. "Delivering this judgment, it seems to say to the warlords: 'As long as you are not on the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and the worst abominations, say that you have nothing to do with that and we will not condemn you'".

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