ICC acquits former Congolese Vice President, Bemba

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

File The ICC overturned the war crimes conviction of Congolese politician Jean Pierre Bemba on Friday

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has acquitted Former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba from the charges of war crimes & crimes against humanity.

"Mr Bemba can not be held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by MLC troops during the Central African Republic operation", she said, reading the ruling of a 5-judge appeal panel.

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court ruled Friday that the lower court decision had "made serious errors" when it found Bemba responsible for the violent crimes his militia carried out in the Central African Republic in the early 2000s.

The Appeals Chamber also dismissed as moot the appeals that Mr Bemba and the Prosecutor had brought against the sentence Trial Chamber III had imposed.

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He was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people.

Van den Wijngaert said Bemba's efforts to stop the crimes "extinguished his responsibility in full".

"The decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is an important reminder that global justice is only possible if all suspects receive stringently fair trials before an independent and impartial judiciary", the human rights agency said.

Bemba, a former Congolese senator and vice president, was the commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo when he was asked in 2002 and 2003 to send troops by President Ange-Felix Patasse in neighboring Central African Republic.

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The decision was met with a mix of frustration, cheers and concern for what this spells for Central Africa's political future.

Dissenting judges Sanji Mmasenono Monageng and Piotr Hofmanski said all the criminal acts for which Bemba was convicted fell within the scope of the ICCC case and they believe the trial chamber did not err when considering Bemba's actions once he learned of the crimes.

The 55 year old who fled DRC after losing a presidential poll was arrested in Belgium in 2008. Congolese residents have increasingly pressed for him to step down, even gathering protests that Kabila has responded to with violence in recent months.

Bemba, who has already spent nearly a decade in jail, will not be immediately released from detention in The Hague after he lost a separate appeal against a conviction for bribing witnesses.

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It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released.

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