Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bemba's Preliminary Hearing Set

The International Criminal Court announced yesterday that a "confirmation of charges" hearing will be held January 12-15 for Jean Pierre Bemba, former DRC vice president and head of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC).

The confirmation of charges hearing is a public hearing held in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant and his counsel, and legal representatives of the victims. It is the rough functional equivalent of a grand jury hearing in the US, in which the prosecutor must establish substantial grounds to believe that the defendant committed the alleged crimes.

Bemba is charged with five counts of war crimes: rape, torture, committing outrages upon personal dignity--in particular humiliating and degrading treatment--pillaging a town or place, and murder. And he is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity: rape, torture, and murder.

These charges are for crimes he allegedly committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-03, after the former president of the Central African Republic, Ange-Felix Patassé, invited him and his CLM militia to the CAR to help suppress a coup attempt. The human rights abuses he allegedly committed during the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not currently under investigation by the ICC. His troops are widely believed to have committed acts of cannibalism, including against pygmies, during the course of that war.

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