12 January 2009 Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today formally charged a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with multiple counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who was the President and Commander in Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), is accused of directing his militia to commit murder, torture and rape against civilians as well as to commit outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging in an attempt to suppress support for anti-government rebels during the 2002-2003 bloody power-struggle in the CAR.
The ICC alleges that in 2002 the MLC was leased to the then embattled President of the CAR, Ange Felix Patassé, to engage in a systematic and wide-spread assault on the civilian population across the country, including its capital, Bangui.
Over the next four days, the Court’s pre-trial chamber will hear evidence on five counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the CAR from 25 October 2002 to 15 March 2003.
The Chamber will decide whether there is a legitimate basis for the charges the ICC Prosecutor has brought against Mr. Bemba and whether to commit him to trial within two months of the end of the confirmation hearings which started today.
Mr. Bemba was arrested on 24 May 2008 by the Belgian authorities and transferred to the ICC in The Hague, where he has been in custody since July.
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The situation in CAR is one of four situations currently under investigation by the ICC Prosecutor. The others are the Darfur region of Sudan, the DRC and Uganda.
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