War crimes trial of DR Congo's Bemba postponed: court

25th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba's war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court has been pushed back to July 14 from July 5, the ICC said Friday.

The court put the postponement down to the "likely change in the composition of the bench" and other "necessary preparations for the commencement of the trial," it said in a statement.

Hearings are to be held on July 14 and 15 for opening speeches and are due to resume after a judicial recess on August 30.

The 47-year-old Bemba 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.

However, the court rejected on Thursday his challenge against its capacity to try him.

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

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