(June 2, 2008) On May 24, 2008, Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo, a former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), was arrested in Belgium. The Belgian police were carrying out a sealed arrest warrant issued on May 23, 2008, by the International Criminal Court. The charges include two counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of war crimes, for actions taken in 2002-2003 in the Central African Republic (CAR), which borders the DRC. Bemba heads the Mouvement de Libération du Congo, an armed group that intervened in the conflict in the CAR. The Court found in a pre-trial procedure that there were reasonable grounds to believe that forces led by Bemba systematically attacked the civilian population in the CAR and committed rape, torture, and other attacks on personal dignity, in addition to pillaging.
The Court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, stated: “Mr. Bemba's arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes.” He went on to say that for the victims, “[w]e cannot erase the scars. But we can give them justice.” (Former DR Congo Vice-President Arrested by International Criminal Court, UN NEWS, May 27, 2008.) The CAR, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute, had referred the situation in its territory to the Prosecutor of the Court in December 2004. Bemba's arrest is the first carried out in connection with the events in the CAR. (Press Release, International Criminal Court, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo Arrested for Crimes Allegedly Committed in the Central African Republic (May 24, 2008), available at http://www.icc-cpi.int/press/pressreleases/370.html.)