Bemba: a test case for command responsibility

19 November 2014 by Janet H. Anderson

Trial chamber judges heard closing arguments last week in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, the former vice-president of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Bemba’s is the third trial to reach closing arguments at the ICC.

The accusations relate to crimes allegedly committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003, when Bemba was asked by then CAR president Ange-Félix Patassé to provide support during a civil war. Bemba is being held accountable, as commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), for multiple rapes and other crimes his troops allegedly committed. No date has been set for the verdict. 

IJT spoke to Taegin Reisman, who has monitored the trial since it started on behalf of the Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based NGO. 

What significance does Bemba’s former senior position have? 

Taegin Reisman (TR): Bemba was DRC vice-president and headed one of the main political parties. His arrest in 2008 laid the prosecution open to criticism because it happened at a strategically convenient time for DRC [current] President Joseph Kabila. Bemba was one of his main political opponents, someone who could have run for president, but was instead arrested for charges connected to events in the CAR.

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