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ICC orders new review of Congo rebel leader Bemba's continued detention

Appellate judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF; press release] Friday that the trial chamber must review the continued detention of former Democratic Republic of Congo [BBC backgrounder] vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba [ICC materials; JURIST news archives]. This decision overturns the trial chamber's July ruling [text, PDF]. In its judgment, the appeals chamber ruled that the trial chamber must consider both changed circumstances and if the grounds on which the decision for detention was chosen persist. Pursuant to Article 60 the Rome Statute [text], chambers are obligated to review an accused person's detention once every 120 days. Bemba is set to go on trial Monday.

Last month, the ICC affirmed [judgment, PDF; press release] a trial chamber ruling and dismissed [JURIST report] Bemba's appeal challenging the admissibility of his case before the ICC. The court also concluded that the ICC's jurisdiction over the case does not violate a Rome Statute provision that prohibits the ICC from hearing cases after a country has decided not to prosecute the person concerned. In April, defense lawyers argued before the court that charges against Bemba should be dropped [JURIST report] because he had been denied due process and the charges are illegal. In addition, defense lawyers claimed that Bemba lacked the financial resources [JURIST report] necessary to ensure a fair trial. The ICC ordered Bemba to stand trial in July 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity [JURIST report] committed between October 2002 and May 2003 while he was a military leader of the Congo Liberation Movement (MLC). Bemba was arrested [JURIST report] in Belgium in May 2008 after the ICC issued a sealed warrant for his arrest. The charges in the arrest warrant included rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging.

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