21 March : ICC to issue long-awaited verdict in trial against Jean-Pierre Bemba


(Bangui, Paris, The Hague) On 21 March 2016, judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will deliver a verdict in the case of Jean- Pierre Bemba, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. For the first time at the ICC, the judges will decide if the accused is criminally responsible as a military commander for crimes committed by troops under his control.

“The verdict in the Bemba trial is a historical moment for victims of heinous atrocities committed in the Central African Republic who have braved 14 years longing for justice.”

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In total, 5,229 victims were granted the status of participating victims in the trial, the highest number of victims of any trial being conducted at the ICC.

Since 2003, FIDH and its member organisations in CAR, LCDH and OCODFAD, have regularly submitted communications to the ICC Office of the Prosecutor on the crimes committed in CAR, highlighting the gravity of the crimes and the State`s unwillingness and inability to investigate and prosecute them. The inability of the national judiciary to deal with the crimes was ultimately confirmed by the Central African Cour de cassation on 11 April 2006 which concluded that the ICC had jurisdiction over those crimes. As acknowledged by the ICC/OTP, the elements of evidence submitted by FIDH were key in this case.

For further information, read the note on Bemba in front of the ICC : 15 years of FIDH action, from the field investigation to the Prosecutor’s conclusion", March 2016.

“The trial has been of a crucial importance because of its particular focus on gender crimes and crimes of sexual violence. It has thus undeniably contributed to raising awareness of a destructive effect that the usage of sexual violence as a systematic weapon of war has on women and men and has helped to break the silence and the stigmatization of victims of rape.”

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In the event of a conviction, the Trial Chamber will determine an appropriate sentence and decide on reparations for victims which include restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. After the judgment is issued, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Defence have 30 days to appeal against the judgment.


The ICC’s investigation in the Central African Republic was opened by the Prosecutor on 22 May 2007, following a referral by the CAR government in 2004. In 2002, then President of CAR requested that Bemba’s armed group, Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) be sent into CAR to dispel a tentative coup d’Etat. The MLC is accused of having committed the gravest of atrocities from 2002-2003 against civilians, including systematic rapes and murders.

Jean-Pierre Bemba was the leader of the MLC and later vice-president of the DRC. He is charged with three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillage) and two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape), in his capacity as military commander. The crimes he is accused of were allegedly committed during the armed conflict in 2002 and 2003 in the Central African Republic, when the MLC supported the armed forces of then President Ange-Felix Patassé in the coup attempt lead by François Bozizé, current CAR President.

Jean-Pierre Bemba was arrested in Belgium on 24 May 2008 and transferred to the ICC’s Hague detention centre on 3 July 2008.
The trial against Jean-Pierre Bemba opened on 22 November 2010. Closing arguments were heard in November 2014.
In May 2014, the President of CAR lodged a second referral to the ICC to investigate and prosecute the parties most responsible for ongoing crimes being committed currently by Seleka and Anti-Balaka militias in the country. The Office of the Prosecutor opened a second investigation in CAR on 24 September 2014. No arrest warrants have yet been issued.
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