Thursday, December 02, 2010

Bemba Trial Wraps-up its Second Week

The war crimes and crimes against humanity trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, began last week on the 22nd of November in The Hague. (For background on the situation and Bemba’s arrest see:

Jean-Pierre Bemba confers with a member of his defense.
(International Criminal Court)
The trial is the first of its kind to be heard at the ICC. It is the first in which a military commander is being held criminally responsible for crimes troops under his command committed. In addition, this trial features the most prominent individual ever to be tried by the court. The focus of the trial will be on the use of sexual violence, namely rape, as a weapon of war. Mr. Bemba has pleaded innocent to all 5 charges against him.

This week saw the presentation by the first witness; an individual known only by the pseudonym ‘Witness 38’. The witness explained that rebels under the leadership of Mr. Bemba are responsible for widespread rape, murder, pillaging, and persecution in the Central African Republic (CAR). Witness 38 explained that “the people who were not physically beaten were psychologically attacked by Bemba’s rebels”

Mr. Bemba’s defense has argued that the rebels, as soon they crossed the border from the DRC into the CAR, came under the authority of the then president Ange-Félix Patassé and not that of Mr. Bemba. In addition, the defense has claimed that the arrest and detention of Mr. Bemba was based on false information.

However, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated that at the beginning of their investigations, the prosecution thought Mr. Patassé and Mr. Bemba were equally responsible for the crimes committed in the CAR. “However” he explained, “the evidence shows that the troops were always under the authority, command, and control of Jean-Pierre Bemba and not under the authority of Patassé and that is why, according to the evidence, we charged Jean-Pierre Bemba”.

Prosecutor, Luis Mereno-Ocampo, participates in ICC proceedings.
(International Criminal Court)
For more daily, weekly, and monthly updates about the trial please visit or if you would like to watch the proceedings live check out the ICC Hearing Schedule.

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