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Democratic Republic of Congo

ICC rule that Bemba must stay in custody

Article published on the 2009-12-02 Latest update 2009-12-02 19:13 TU

Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC in The Hague on 2 December(Photo: Reuters)

Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC in The Hague on 2 December
(Photo: Reuters)

The International Criminal Court’s appeal chamber ruled on Wednesday that former Democractic Republic of Congo Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba must remain in custody until his war crimes trial starts next year. They say he poses a flight risk.

The ICC had decided to grant Bemba a conditional release in August. But the prosecution successfully appealed against this decision and it was reversed.

Judge Akua Kuenyehia said that, “the potential length of the sentence that Mr Bemba is likely to serve if convicted, is a further incentive for him to abscond”.

The Ghanaian judge added that the court thought that Bemba’s “financial status” was a “relevant factor in determining whether he would have the means to abscond or even to interfere with the investigations or the safety of the witnesses”.

He is charged with three charges of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity, allegedly committed between October 2002 and March 2003 in the Central African Republic.

However, Bemba's lawyer, Aimé Kilolo believes the ICC will be forced to review his custody once again.

“The ICC’s Rome Statute specifies that every 120 days the trial chamber must review the custody of Jean-Pierre Bemba, so whether we appeal or not, the question of his release will be raised,” said Kilolo.

Bemba was arrested in Brussels in May 2008, where he had been in exile after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo following his loss in presidential elections.