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ICC orders Congo rebel leader Bemba to remain in custody until trial

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Wednesday ordered [text, PDF; press release] former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba [ICC materials, JURIST news archive] to remain in custody until his trial next spring. The ruling reverses a decision [JURIST report] issued in August ordering Bemba's conditional release. The order for release was opposed by ICC prosecutors who appealed [JURIST report] the original decision. Bemba remained in custody during the appeals process because the condition of release requiring a country to host him was not met. The ICC appeals judges determined that the original decision to release Bemba was flawed, stating:

the Pre-Trial Chamber misappreciated and disregarded relevant facts in reaching its conclusion that the entirety of factors before it reflected a "substantial change of circumstances" since the issuance of the Decision of 14 April 2009. The Pre-Trial Chamber acknowledged that the grave charges that Mr. Bemba now faces as a result of the Decision of 15 June 2009 makes the risk of him absconding more likely than prior to confirmation. In the view of the Appeals Chamber it was incumbent upon the Pre-Trial Chamber to analyse all the factors based on this heightened risk, in particular, Mr. Bemba's international contacts and ties and his financial situation which the Pre-Trial Chamber did not do.

Bemba's trial date [JURIST report] is set for April 27.

The ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] in June for war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder] from October 2002 to May 2003. Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium in May 2008 after the ICC issued a warrant for his arrest 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].

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