News / Africa

Bemba Supporters Say War Crimes Trial is Political

Congo's former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, in the International Criminal Court courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands,  22 Nov. 2010
Congo's former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, in the International Criminal Court courtroom in The Hague, Netherlands, 22 Nov. 2010

Supporters of former Congolese rebel leader and former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba say his war crimes trial is politically motivated. He faces two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The start of Bemba's trial was broadcast live on national television in Congo, reviving debate about both his political future and his responsibility for the conduct of his rebels when they crossed into the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

Used?

Bemba's principal defense counsel, Nkwebe Liriss, says the International Criminal Court is being used by "unscrupulous politicians" in Congo who are trying to eliminate one of their strongest challengers ahead of the next presidential election.

Germain Kambinga, executive secretary of Bemba's political party, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, says the party is quite calm and hopes the trial goes quickly so Bemba's innocence can be proven at last. Then, he says, the party will concentrate on what is important: defending the interests of the Congolese people behind Bemba, who Kambinga says is the embodiment of change for the country.

What conviction could mean

Bemba did well enough in Congo's 2006 election to be made a vice president by President Joseph Kabila. But his indictment by the International Criminal Court cut short his political career and could end it with a conviction.

Bemba is charged with failing to stop his rebels from robbing, raping, and killing civilians in the Central African Republic where they intervened to support then-president Ange Felix Patasse, who was ultimately toppled by the country's current leader Francois Bozize.

Bemba's attorneys question why neither Patasse nor Bozize are facing trial for those crimes. Henri-Christin Longendja heads Congo's Committee for Human Rights and Development. He does not doubt Bemba's guilt but agrees the prosecution appears selective.

Political motivation?

Longendja says it is hard to imagine Bemba's trial continuing without the presence of President Bozize, former president Patasse and the head of the country's armed forces. He says those three must also answer for crimes committed, but as long as they are free and only Bemba is arrested, that, Longendja says, is where the trial becomes political.

Defense counsel Liriss questions the prosecution's investigation into the extent of Bemba's "command and control" over his men while they were in the Central African Republic.

Court's stance

Chief Prosector Luis Moreno-Ocampo says the court is not alleging that Bemba ordered anyone to rape or kill, but as their commander he is responsible for his men's actions.

"Small platoons were organized, groups of three or four soldiers invaded houses one by one," Moreno-Ocampo said. "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."

Prosecutors will call 18 witnesses who they say will establish beyond a reasonable doubt that these crimes took place and were knowingly and willfully committed. The challenge will be linking Bemba directly to those crimes, in much the same way International Criminal Court prosecutors have tried to link former Liberian President Charles Taylor to crimes committed by rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid