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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora