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Former DR Congo Vice-President Arrested By ICC

Former DR Congo Vice-President arrested by International Criminal Court

27 May 2008 - Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been arrested by Belgian authorities on a sealed warrant of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Mr. Bemba chairs the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), an armed group that intervened in the 2002-2003 armed conflict in CAR. The Court's pre-trial chamber has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the MLC forces, led by Mr. Bemba, carried out a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population during which rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging were committed.

"Mr. Bemba's arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes," the ICC's Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo stated. "There is a new law called the Rome Statute. Under this new law, they will be prosecuted." According to an ICC press release, Mr. Bemba - the first person arrested in the context of the ICC investigation in CAR - had already used similar tactics in the past in the DRC.

"This arrest was a complex and well-prepared operation," Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, voicing his appreciation to all those helped trace Mr. Bemba.

The arrest warrant was issued on 23 May and remained under seal until he was arrested the following day.

"There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes," the Prosecutor noted. "There are no [excuses] for commanders ordering, authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces."

Regarding the victims, he said that "we cannot erase the scars. But we can give them justice."

The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern - namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The situation in CAR is one of four situations currently under investigation by the ICC Prosecutor. The others are the Darfur region of Sudan, the DRC and Uganda.

The warrant for Bemba's arrest was issued under seal just 4 days ago.


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