Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo Before the Judges

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Organisation pour la compassion et le développement des familles en détresse (OCODEFAD) and Ligue centrafricaine des droits de l’Homme (LCDH) applaud the transfer today of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to the detention center of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

"This is a great day for victims and for international justice. This considerable step in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic is an essential element in the construction of a durable peace in the country," declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

Arrested in Belgium on 24 May 2008 pursuant to an ICC arrest warrant, the Belgian judges validated the legality of the arrest and of the arrest warrant, thus authorizing his transfer before international criminal justice.

Five years ago, FIDH brought to the attention of the ICC Prosecutor the serious crimes committed by the parties to the conflict related to the coup d’etat of General Bozizé in 2002 and 2003 in the Central African Republic [1]. FIDH had particularly brought to light the responsibility of Jean-Pierre Bemba for the serious crimes committed by his men who had come to support the loyalist troops of Ange-Félix Patassé.

The impunity in CAR drove Central African victims to appeal to international criminal justice. FIDH and its member organisations have not ceased to support the victims in this process and to call upon the Court to take into account this forgotten situation, by opening an investigation and by initiating prosecutions against the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in this country. FIDH and its members organisations insisted, in particular, on the scope and gravity of the practice of rape and other sexual crimes.

This arrest is symbolic because it concerns one of the allegedly most responsible perpetrators for crimes committed in CAR, who is also a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The arrest gives a strong signal to the perpetrators of sexual crimes that they can not escape justice. The arrest should open the path to other prosecutions, considering the totality of crimes and all the parties to the conflict, regardless of their official capacities and functions.

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