Congo's Former VP Bemba War Crimes Trial Gets Go Ahead
Congo's Former VP Bemba War Crimes Trial Gets Go Ahead

The International Criminal Court has agreed to pursue the war crimes trial of Congo's former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba. 

Fadi El Abdallah is an officer at the International Criminal Court. "The outcome of today's judgment is that the case against Mr. Bemba is admissible indeed, and the trial can continue," he said.

Bemba was formerly vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in atrocities carried out in the neighboring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

He is accused of leading militias that raped and murdered civilians.

Bemba's defense tried to get the trial thrown out of court because, his lawyers argued, he has already been investigated in the Central African Republic.  They said he could not be tried for the same crime twice, but the International Criminal Court said the Central African Republic investigation did not prohibit the ICC trial.

Kolawole Olaniyan is from the Britain-based human-rights group Amnesty International.  "This is good news for international justice," Olaniyan says, "This is good news for the countless victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Bemba.  This decision also shows that the ICC has the ability to go after the so-called big fish."

Bemba's trial has already been put on hold three times.  But the decision paves the way for the court to set a date for the trial to begin.  

Olaniyan says it is important the trial progresses swiftly.  He said others involved in atrocities in the Central African Republic should also be investigated by the court. "It is absolutely important for the ICC to ensure the proper investigation and if there is any evidence to prosecute others that may have supported him or worked with him in the commission of these offenses that we are talking about," Olaniyan adds.

Bemba has been charged with two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes.  The International Criminal Court opened in The Hague in 2002.  It has since launched cases related to conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Uganda, and the Central African Republic.