[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Monday ordered [text, PDF] former Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) [BBC backgrounder] rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archive] to stand trial for the alleged commission of violent war crimes. The prosecution contends that Bemba's actions in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] as military leader of the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC) [party website, in French] from October 2002 to May 2003 amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Although the pre-trial ruling ordered Bemba to face prosecution for various rape, murder, and pillaging charges under sections 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute [text], he was not found criminally responsible for allegedly acting as a co-perpetrator with former CAR president Ange-Felix Patasse [NYT backgrounder] in the commission of other counts of crimes against humanity as well as torture charges. Bemba's counsel argued [Reuters report] that he should not be held responsible for any of the charges since he was acting on behalf of Patasse with respect to all of his actions as military leader of the MLC.
Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in May 2008 for his actions in the CAR. He was indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity and transferred [JURIST report] to the ICC in July 2008. The proceedings against Bemba were initially postponed, but the pre-trial hearing [JURIST reports] to determine what charges the rebel leader is to face commenced in January. Bemba was elected to the Congolese Senate 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].