ICC overturns 18-year sentence against former DR Congo vice president

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International Criminal Court appeals judges have overturned the convictions of former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba for atrocities committed by his forces in Central African Republic.

'The Court of Appeals concluded by a majority that Bemba can not be considered responsible for the crimes committed by the MLC troops during the operation carried out in the RCA and must be acquitted, ' says the text of the final ruling of the ICC.

Scroll through for the crimes that saw Bemba at the ICC for the last few years.

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 as a military commander of two counts of crimes against humanity and three war crimes for a campaign of murder, rape and pillaging by his troops in 2002 and 2003.

"The decision to acquit Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is an important reminder that global justice is only possible if all suspects receive stringently fair trials before an independent and impartial judiciary", the human rights agency said.

But a majority of appeals judges decided Friday that the verdict did not fairly account for Bemba's efforts to stop his troops' crimes once he became aware of them - and that since he was acting as a remote commander, his power to do so was limited.

Dismissing his 18-year-sentence, she said trial judges had failed to consider his efforts to stop crimes committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) once he became aware of them, and how hard it would have been for him to control the troops' actions from a distance.

Judge Monageng and Judge Hofmański found that all criminal acts for which Mr Bemba was convicted fell within the scope of the case that the Prosecutor had brought against him.

Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said that Bemba had the right to return home if released, Reuters reported.

Bemba ran against Kabila in 2006 elections that went to a run-off between them before Kabila won. It was the first time ICC had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command. If Bemba, who has been behind bars for 10 years, actually takes on Kabila in an (electoral) fight, it's likely this battle will claim further victims.

It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the ICC's ruling was a "huge blow for the many victims" who had suffered during the war waged in the central African country. "Delivering this judgment, it seems to say to the warlords: 'As long as you are not on the scene, let your troops commit the worst crimes and the worst abominations, say that you have nothing to do with that and we will not condemn you'".

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