Lawyers representing former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba filed a claim with the International Criminal Court (ICC) Monday seeking more than €68 million (USD $76.5 million) in compensatory damages for a 10-year prison sentence he served from 2008 to 2018.
Bemba was arrested in May 2008 on multiple charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors alleged that soldiers under Bemba’s command had committed grievous crimes in the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003. After a protracted legal dispute, he was convicted of three war crimes—murder, rape and pillaging—and two crimes against humanity—murder and rape—and sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2016. In addition, he was found guilty of tampering with witnesses and attempting to bribe officials in an effort to earn an acquittal. However, Bemba appealed and the convictions were overturned, with the judge stating that he could not be held responsible for the actions of the men under his command.
In the claim submitted to the ICC Monday, Bemba stated that on top of the “incalculable” loss from 10 years of imprisonment, he suffered distinct economic losses from his time in jail. In particular, the claim states that Bemba’s three villas and seven airplanes that he owned were “left to rot” and are now worthless, among other economic damages. Bemba states that he is entitled to the restitution payments based on serving a decade in prison for charges on which he was acquitted, and that the ICC’s authorizing treaty, the Rome Statute, authorizes reparations in these situations. The €68 million demand is roughly half of the annual budget of the ICC.