- The International Criminal Court (ICC) has granted the request of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for a conditional release until the start of the former Congolese leader’s trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Mr Bemba, the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), faces charges for alleged crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003, which include rape, murder and pillaging.
“Today, 14 August 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court decided to grant the request of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for interim release, albeit under conditions,” the Court announced in a news release.
Mr Bemba will be released once the conditions have been set, and it has been determined which country will take him in until his trial, added The hague based Court.
The ICC also announced that Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will today appeal the decision to grant Mr Bemba conditional release.
The Prosecution “considers that Mr Bemba, who is still physically in detention in The Hague, should stay in prison. The Appeals Chamber will review whether the decision to release Mr Bemba is correct.”
“The judges of the ICC have confirmed that Mr Bemba must stand trial to answer the very serious charges that have been brought against him” said Mr Moreno-Ocampo, also adding, “Victims and witnesses can be confident that the trial will take place in the near future and that the Court will continue to guarantee their safety.”
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The ICC confirmed charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against former Congolese vice-president last month.
The udges in The Hague found that Mr Bemba had the “necessary criminal intent” when in 2002 he ordered his armed group, the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), into CAR to back up embattled leader Ange-Félix Patassé.
According to the ICC, MLC fighters committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on that mission, with Mr Bemba “effectively acting as military commander.” His alleged responsibility covers crimes committed between October 2002 and March 2003.
The alleged crimes include rape, murder and pillaging. Torture was among the crimes the Court did not uphold, citing a lack of evidence.
Mr Bemba was arrested in May 2008 by Belgian authorities and transferred to the ICC in July.
He is to stand trial at a date still to be determined.
The situation in CAR is one of four – along with Darfur, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda – currently under investigation by the Prosecutor of the ICC.
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