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Belgium court transfers former Congo rebel leader to ICC

[JURIST] Belgium's Court of Cassation [official website, in French] Tuesday approved the transfer of former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba [ICC profile; JURIST news archive] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] where he will face prosecution for war crimes. Bemba, who was arrested by Belgian authorities [JURIST report] in May, had challenged the move by alleging that authorities did not follow proper procedures. The ICC has indicted [arrest warrant, PDF, in French; decision to unseal, PDF, in French] Bemba on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] between October 2002 and March 2003. Prosecutors say he is responsible for rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity, and pillaging. Bemba's arrest warrant is the first issued by the ICC in its investigation of large-scale sexual offenses [ICC press release] in the CAR. AFP has more. IWPR has local coverage.

Bemba, now a member of the Congolese Senate, was elected to his office after losing a run-off presidential election [JURIST report] to Joseph Kabila [BBC profile], who in December 2006 became the first freely-elected president of the DRC since 1960. After the election, Bemba's private militia force led a violent campaign against government troops until the DRC Supreme Court rejected his election challenge [JURIST report]. In the process, Bemba's supporters set fire to the Supreme Court building [JURIST report]. Following the clashes, the chief prosecutor of the DRC issued a warrant for Bemba's arrest [JURIST report], and he fled to Europe. A court in CAR referred the original war crimes charges [JURIST report] to the ICC in April 2006.

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