Don't drop war crimes trial of DR.Congo's Bemba: CAR
Lawyers for the Central African Republic urged International Criminal Court judges Tuesday not to drop the war crimes trial of former DR Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, as he had asked.
"Today's society cannot tolerate impunity for such acts," as Bemba stands accused of, CAR lawyer Emile Bizon told judges in The Hague. "It is for this reason that the ICC was set up."
Bizon said the CAR, which had referred the case to the ICC in 2005, did not have the manpower or resources to put Bemba on trial itself.
The 47-year-old stands accused of three charges of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic from October 2002 to March 2003.
He will stand trial for acts of murder, rape and pillaging allegedly committed by members of his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) while helping troops of then CAR president Ange-Felix Patasse resist a coup attempt.
Bemba has challenged the admissibility of the case against him, claiming he had already been investigated in the CAR and could not be prosecuted for the same crime twice.
"They can no longer prosecute us," Nkwebe Liriss argued for Bemba, urging the court to throw out the case.
But Bizon accused Bemba of "delaying tactics", saying investigations in the CAR never resulted in any previous trial.
Victims representative Paolina Massidda said her clients would prefer Bemba to be tried in The Hague.
"They have two fears: notably one of security with regard to their well-being were the trial to be held in the CAR, and also the proximity of the CAR with the DRC where MLC militia are still to be found and are still active," she said.
Bemba, who left the DR Congo in 2007 after losing 2006 presidential elections held during a political transition in the wake of a 1998-2003 civil war, was arrested on an ICC warrant in Brussels in May 2008.
© 2010 AFP