ICC Appeals Chamber dismisses admissibility challenge in Bemba case 19 Oct 2010
The Bemba trial is set to go ahead after the Appeals Chamber dismissed an admissibility challenge.

On 19 October 2010 the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Court (ICC) dismissed an appeal by Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo challenging the admissibility of the case against him. The decision clears the way for the beginning of the trial of the former Congolese vice-president, the first in the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR).

On 24 June 2010 Trial Chamber III dismissed a challenge against the admissibility of the proceedings against Bemba. The Defence appealed this decision on 28 June 2010. Bemba argued that he could not be tried since there had already been domestic proceedings relating to the same alleged crimes in CAR, and there had been a decision not the prosecute him. Under article 17(1)(b) of the Rome Statute, the ICC is determine that a case is inadmissible where there has been an investigation and a subsequent decision not to prosecute, unless this was because the State concerned was unwilling or unable to prosecute.

Bemba’s Defence argued that an order of the Bangui Regional Court’s Senior Investigating Judge on 16 September 2004 in the CAR constituted a ‘decision not to prosecute’ under article 17(1)(b).  However, the Trial Chamber found that the case was admissible since this order did not constitute a ‘decision not to prosecute’ within the meaning of that article. This was because the order was not the final decision in the case before the Central African Republic courts. The Appeals Chamber therefore dismissed the Defence arguments that the Trial Chamber had erred in coming to its decision.

The Government of the Central African Republic referred the situation in CAR to the ICC in 2004, with respect to crimes committed on its territory from 1 July 2002. Former Congolese vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is the only person to be indicted by the ICC in relation to crimes committed in the CAR.

Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo

Between October 2002 and March 2003, an armed conflict was fought in the CAR. Rebel forces led by the former Chief of Staff of the CAR army, François Bozizé, mounted an offensive to overthrow then President, Ange-Félix Patassé. In order to quell the rebellion, Patassé requested the militia combatants of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) led by former vice-President of neighbouring DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to enter the country. Bemba’s militias are widely accused of committing murder and widespread acts of sexual violence against the civilian population of the CAR.

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is alleged to be criminally responsible for having effectively acted as a military commander within the meaning of article 28(a) of the Rome Statute for two crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging). The Trial Chamber will now set a date for the beginning of the trial.

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