The International Criminal Court (ICC) has overturned the war crimes conviction of former Vice President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Jean-Pierre Bemba on appeal.
The presiding judges said the former DRC vice president cannot be held responsible for the atrocities in the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR).
The ICC said that trial judges had failed to consider the efforts Bemba made to stop crimes once he became aware of them.
In 2016, Mr. Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR).
“Mr. Bemba cannot be held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by MLC troops during the Central African Republic operation,” Van den Wijngaert said, reading the ruling of a 5-judge appeal panel. Wijngaert added that Bemba’s efforts to stop the crimes “extinguished his responsibility in full.”
Meanwhile, the DRC government has confirmed that Mr. Bemba has the right to return home once he is released.
The @IntlCrimCourt Appeals Chamber acquitted ex-Congolese politician Jean-Pierre #Bemba from the charges of #WarCrimes and #CrimesAgainstHumanity today. The Appeals Camber decided that the Trial Chamber III had erred on two important issues. #ICC https://t.co/a8vwlriDpi
— International Crimes (@IntCrimDatabase) June 8, 2018
The DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende told Reuters’ “There’s not even any question over it.”
Mr. Mende added: “Do you know of any other country where a Congolese citizen is supposed to live? All Congolese are free to live in DRC.”
The new verdict is a huge blow for the ICC that regarded the Bemba verdict as one of its massive success since its establishment.
The Bemba acquittal will have major implications for the ICC going forward. It could also have a huge impact on the DRC’s tumultuous domestic political scene.#DRCongo #ICC #Bemba https://t.co/VElBVnFHOw
— Mark Kersten (@MarkKersten) June 9, 2018
African leaders are often found criticizing the ICC. Many of the African countries have withdrawn from the ICC.
In 2016, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said ICC was useless while Kenya and Rwanda’s leaders also criticize the ICC.
President Kagame of Rwanda recently said: “The ICC was supposed to address the whole world, but it ended up covering only Africa.” Referring to his reiterated criticism and disapproval of The Hague based International Criminal Court, Kagame said: “From the time of its inception, I said there was a fraud basis on which it was set up and how it was going to be used.”
I was surprised by the ICC decision on #Bemba however I celebrate it as it were rule of law. When we go to court, we go to seek justice, which means a decision based on law and not any other. The decision is a welcome addition to international criminal law practice & academia.
— Thomas Ddumba (@tomddumba) June 9, 2018
Rwandan President Kagame’s criticism of the ICC, however, is nothing new. He has been criticizing ICC over the years and as he says: “I don’t believe I have been proven wrong.” Mr. Kagame accused ICC of being “politics disguised as international justice” and that was one of the reasons “Rwanda did not become a signatory to ICC.”
Is ICC Biased against Africa?
Rwanda’s Paul Kagame is not the only African leader to criticize the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many African leaders criticize The Hague based intergovernmental organization and an international tribunal of being biased against Africa. Even the African Union (AU), a continental union consisting of all 55 countries, passed a nonbinding resolution encouraging the member states to mass withdrawal from ICC.
— Nader I. Diab (@NaderiskDiab) June 9, 2018
In pursuit of knowing the opinion of the mass African people about their leaders’ allegations against ICC, The Hague Institute for Global Justice conducted a research in 5 Kenyan regions. According to the research as published in The Washington Post, “Only 34.3 percent of participants agreed with the statement: The International Criminal Court, ICC or The Hague is biased against Africa…. A plurality of respondents, 46.2 percent, disagreed, and 19.5 percent remained neutral or said they did not know.”