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Congo rebel leader Bemba claims lack of funds precludes fair trial

Defense lawyers for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba [case materials; JURIST news archive] argued before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Monday that Bemba lacks the financial resources to ensure a fair trial over war crimes he allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003. Bemba's lawyers claim [AP report] that prosecutors have seized all of Bemba's assets and that a loan from the court's registry is insufficient to cover legal fees and other costs. The court refused to declare Bemba indigent, which would have forced the court to fund Bemba's defense. Prosecutors hope to begin Bemba's trial in October or November.

In April, Bemba's lawyers asked the court to drop the charges [JURIST report], arguing that Bremba was denied due process and the charges are illegal. In December, the ICC ordered [text, PDF] Bemba to remain in custody [JURIST report] until his trial. The ruling reversed a decision [JURIST report] issued last August ordering Bemba's conditional release. The order for release was opposed by ICC prosecutors who appealed [JURIST report] the original decision. The ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial [JURIST report] for war crimes allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder]. 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.

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