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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid