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ICC sets trial of Congo rebel leader Bemba for April 27

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Thursday set the trial date [order, PDF; press release] for former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo [ICC materials; JURIST news archive] for April 27. The trial date was set to give the defense six months of preparation from the date the Office of the Prosecutor fulfills its disclosure obligations, in compliance with the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence. The ICC order also allotted the defense €30,150 per month to be paid for the period beginning in March 2009 and until there is a "material change in circumstances." Bemba is accused of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes 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. During the trial, the prosecution intends to call 37 witnesses and introduce 476 documents.

The ICC Appeals Chamber decided in September that Bemba Gombo will remain in custody until his trial. In August, the ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for the alleged commission of violent war crimes. 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 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].

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