Former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Verdict expected on Monday in Bemba war crimes trial at ICC

Jean-Pierre Bemba went on trial at the International Criminal Court over five years ago for war crimes including giving his troops licence to attack civilians, which led to mass rapes, murders and pillaging of civilians in the Central African Republic.

THE HAGUE, THE NETHERLANDS (REUTERS) – Former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo went on trial at the International Criminal Court in November 2010 accused of letting his Movement for the Liberation of Congo militia troops rape and kill as they tried to quell coup attempts in the neighbouring Central African Republic.

Jean-Pierre Bemba was at the time the most senior political leader to be detained so far by the ICC. He is charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes.

Bemba stands accused of leading troops into the CAR between late 2002 and early 2003 at the invitation of Ange-Felix Patasse, the republic’s president at the time, in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to suppress coup attempts.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Bemba sent about 1,500 troops into the CAR, where they committed hundreds of rapes and pillaged property to spread terror and devastate communities, and that Bemba failed to control his forces.

Bemba pleaded not guilty to all five charges against him through his lead defence lawyer Nkwebe Liriss.

“Small platoons were organised, groups of three or four soldiers invaded houses one by one. They stole all the possessions that could be carried off and raped the women, girls and elderly, regardless of their age. The evidence will show that the charged crimes were committed by MLC troops and that Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba was their military commander with effective authority and control. He is the owner of the militia, he created it to gain political and economic power. He financed it and deployed it,” argued chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Bemba was defeated by President Joseph Kabila in a 2006 election and became Congo’s most prominent opposition figure. He fled into exile in 2007, saying he feared for his life.

Bemba was arrested in Belgium in 2008 and transferred to the ICC in The Hague

In 2015 at a separate trial, Bemba and his former lawyer Aime Kilolo Musamba pleaded not guilty at a corruption trial in The Hague. Bemba and Musamba were accused of coaching witnesses and paying them to testify in his favour between 2011 and 2013 in an attempt to secure an acquittal.