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ICC secures first arrest in CAR situation: CICC Media advisory; Related Media Coverage.
25 May 2008
Following yesterday's arrest of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, alleged President and Commander in Chief of the "Mouvement de Libération du Congo" (MLC) in Belgium, on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR), please find enclosed:
I. The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC)'s latest Media Advisory;
II. Media coverage on the arrest.
Please take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the CICC will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis.. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.
Coalition for the International Criminal Court
I. "ICC SECURES FIRST ARREST IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SITUATION", Media advisory, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 25 May 2008, http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/CICCAdvisoryCARBembaArrest_25May08_eng.pdf
"ICC SECURES FIRST ARREST IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SITUATION
Rebel Leader Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo arrested in Belgium for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic
WHAT: On 24 May 2008, Belgian authorities arrested in Belgium Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, alleged President and Commander in Chief of the "Mouvement de Libération du Congo" (MLC) on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).
HOW: On 23 May 2008, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber III issued a sealed warrant of arrest against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, upon application of the Prosecutor on 9 May 2008. The Chamber decided to unseal the warrant following his arrest by the Belgian authorities on 24 May 2008. Bemba is soon expected to be transferred to the ICC detention center in The Hague, The Netherlands. Belgium, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo are all among the 106 State Parties of the Rome Statute of the ICC. Thus they are obligated to cooperate with the Court which has jurisdiction for crimes committed on the territories or by nationals of these countries.
WHY: The charges contained in the warrant of arrest refer to acts allegedly committed in the CAR between 25 October 2002 and 15 March 2003. Pre Trial Chamber III stated that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jean-Pierre Bemba is criminally responsible jointly with another or through another person for two counts of crimes against humanity: rape and torture, as well as four counts of war crimes: rape; torture; outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; and pillaging a town or place.
WHO: Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, alleged national of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was born on 4 November 1962 in Bokada, in the Equateur province, DRC. Allegedly, Bemba was the President and Commander in chief of the "Mouvement de Libération du Congo" also referred to in the warrant as the « Banyamulengue » forces.
COMMENTS AND BACKGROUND: This is the first unsealed arrest warrant and the first arrest in the situation of the Central African Republic. The situation in CAR is the ICC's fourth investigation and was opened a year ago, on 22 May 2007, upon referral by the Central African Government on 22 December 2004. The Office of the Prosecutor is currently conducting investigations in three other situations, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Northern Uganda, and Darfur, Sudan. With twelve arrest warrants issued for investigations in four different countries, and with four suspects arrested to this day, the International Criminal Court is making its mark on the world stage.
"With the growing global reach of the Rome Statute, there are fewer safe havens for perpetrators of massive crimes" said William R. Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. "Exactly ten years after the adoption of the Rome Statute, this Court embodies the promise of seeing individuals held responsible for the gravest crimes they committed, regardless of their position," he added. "We are, we believe, at the beginning of a new age when the establishment of these kinds of militias that commit crimes against humanity is no longer a corridor to power, but a pathway to prison. We commend the Belgian authorities for their cooperation with the Court and look forward to a swift start to fair and independent proceedings in the case against Bemba," he concluded. ..."
II. RELATED NEWS COVERAGE
i. "Bemba arrest removes challenger to Congo leader", by Joe Bavier (Reuters), 25 May 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/reutersEdge/idUSL252044520080525
"The arrest for war crimes of Congo's exiled former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba ends his career as a political challenger to President Joseph Kabila but leaves the risk of a possible backlash from Bemba's followers. Bemba, a former rebel warlord who was defeated by Kabila in Democratic Republic of Congo's 2006 election, was detained in Brussels on Saturday by Belgian authorities executing an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest for war crimes committed in the Central African Republic.
.... The International Criminal Court sought Bemba's arrest alleging he was the instigator and leader of a campaign of mass rapes, torture and pillage committed by his MLC fighters in Congo's neighbor Central African Republic in 2002/2003..... Bemba, who had been living in exile in Portugal, has denied the war crimes accusations.
Belgian Justice Ministry spokesman Leo de Bock said Bemba was arrested late on Saturday in a house in the Brussels suburbs. Judges had eight days to confirm the arrest.
'In a maximum of two weeks, Mr Bemba should be transferred to the Scheveningen prison near The Hague,' de Bock said.
Human rights campaigners said Bemba should also be investigated for atrocities committed by his MLC rebel group during Congo's own 1998-2003 war. Bemba served as a vice-president to Kabila in the post-war transition.
'This shows that no one is beyond the reach of the law. And anyone in Congo that has committed serious human rights abuses should take note,' Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch told Reuters, welcoming the news of Bemba's arrest.
There was no immediate reaction from Kabila's government or from Bemba's MLC party.
.....The ICC accuses Bemba and his MLC rebels of carrying out hundreds of rapes in fighting in Central African Republic's capital Bangui. Rapes outnumbered other crimes, with young girls and old women being gang raped in public places, the ICC said. ..."
ii. "Former Congolese warlord charged with war crimes", The Associated Press, 25 May 2008, http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iBIOcfjx9TRcJM2lN8EMO39Up4ZAD90SFL581
"Former Congolese warlord and ex-presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba has been arrested in Brussels on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The International Criminal Court announced his arrest in a news release late Saturday, and said Bemba was head of a militia that supposedly committed atrocities in the 2002-2003 armed conflict in the neighboring Central African Republic.
The international court has been investigating allegations of mass rape and other war crimes committed in the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003, including by Congolese rebels who were then controlled by Bemba.
Bemba, who also is a former vice-president of Congo, was the first person to be arrested in connection with that investigation opened last year, the court said.
'There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes,' Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. 'There are no excuses for the rape of a little girl, with her parents watching. There are no excuses for commanders ordering, authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces.'
..... Although the case grew out of the African government's allegations against Patasse and his commanders, the court is not limited to investigating just one side of the conflict. ..."
iii. "DRCongo opposition leader Bemba arrested: ICC", AFP, 25 May 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hTKKuAAb3_Y0PJdoI-bqCCiqG-3Q
" Jean-Pierre Bemba, formerly vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was in custody in Belgium Sunday after being arrested on a war crimes warrant from the International Criminal Court.
.... The tribunal expected Bemba would go before a Belgian judge in the next few days and that he would be transferred to the ICC in a matter of weeks.
Bemba was arrested on a warrant that listed four charges of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity, all allegedly committed in the Central African Republic.
...."The warrant of arrest for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is the first warrant issued in the situation in the Central African Republic," said a statement from the ICC posted on its website.
But prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo made it clear that the investigation was ongoing and it would not be the only warrant issued in the case....
In 2007, a group set up in the Central African Republic, the Organization for Compassion and the Developments of Families in Distress (OCODEFAD) conducted an investigation into the violence carried out during that period.
It found that 1,045 victims of the violence, of whom 480 were women or girls who had been raped.
'The high number of rapes committed by the troops of the MLC with an indescribable brutality is a particular characteristic of this affair,' Moreno-Ocampo said Saturday.
And Bemba was responsible for similar crimes in the DRCongo, he added.
Of the victims, he said: 'We cannot wipe away their wounds. But we can give them justice.
'The testimony of the victims will serve as evidence. The victims will come to tell their story to the court,' he added.
Bemba is the fourth person to be arrested by the ICC. ..."
iv. "Former DR Congo leader arrested", BBC News, 25 May 2008, http://news.bbc..co.uk/2/hi/africa/7418932.stm
"The former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been arrested in Belgium on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Jean-Pierre Bemba, who fled Congo last year, was detained near Brussels late on Saturday after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant.
Mr Bemba is wanted for alleged atrocities committed by his forces in the Central African Republic in 2002.
He went into exile after being accused of high treason in his home country.
He was accused of refusing to disarm his militia after his defeat in presidential elections in 2006, and of unleashing violence in the capital, Kinshasa.
Mr Bemba has always denied the charges. ..."
v. See also:
- "Bemba held on torture charges", The Press Association, 25 May 2008, http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5j3GZ6DfpzT9LYgDng3agdFeUCnnw
- "Former DRC Vice-President Arrested on War Crimes Charges", VOA News, 25 May 2008, http://voanews.com/english/2008-05-25-voa6.cfm
CICC's policy on the referral and prosecution of situations before the ICC:
The Coalition for the ICC is not an organ of the court. The CICC is an independent NGO movement dedicated to the establishment of the
International Criminal Court as a fair, effective, and independent international organization.
The Coalition will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC and to help coordinate global action to effectively implement the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Coalition will also endeavour to respond to basic queries and to raise awareness about the ICC's trigger mechanisms and procedures, as they develop. The Coalition as a whole, and its secretariat, do not endorse or promote specific investigations or prosecutions or take a position on situations before the ICC. However, individual CICC members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts.
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