(Jan. 15, 2009) On January 12, 2009, the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC) formally charged Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo with five counts of war crimes and three counts of crimes against humanity. Bemba Gombo is the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the crimes he is alleged to have committed took place in the Central African Republic (CAR). The allegation is that from October 2002 to March 2003, Bemba Gombo permitted the CAR president at the time, Ange Felix Patassé, to lease a militia under Gombo's control and use it to assault the civilian population of the CAR, murdering, torturing, and raping them, in order to end support for anti-government rebels.
Following the issuance of the charges, the ICC's pre-trial chamber will hear evidence in the case and then determine whether or not there is a legitimate basis for the allegations and, therefore, whether the case should go to trial. Four days have been allotted for these preliminary hearings; if there is a trial, it should commence within two months. Bemba Gombo had been arrested in May 2008 by Belgian authorities and has been in The Hague since July.
The ICC, an independent court to try those accused of genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity, is currently involved in three other African investigations: the situations in the Darfur region of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. (International Criminal Court Charges Former DR Congo Leader with War Crimes, UN NEWS, Jan. 12 2009, available from UNNews@un.org; ICC website, http://www.icc-cpi.int/home.html&l=en (last visited Jan. 13, 2009); see also, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the/International Criminal Court: War Crimes – Former VP Arrested, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, June 2, 2008, available at //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/WLB?disp3_593_text.)