ICC-Belgium: No Peace Without Justice welcomes arrest of former MLC Commander-in-Chief Jean-Pierre Bemba as an important step in the fight against impunity

26 May, 2008 | Press Releases

Jean-Pierre Bemba, President and Commander in Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC) and former Vice-President of the DRC, was arrested on 24 May 2008 by the Belgian authorities following a warrant of arrest issued under seal by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court. Jean-Pierre Bemba is alleged to be criminally responsible for four counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the Central African Republic (CAR) from October 2002 to March 2003.

Jean-Pierre Bemba is the fourth person to be arrested pursuant to an ICC arrest warrant and the first person arrested in the context of the ICC investigation in CAR, which was opened by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in May 2007.

Statement by Sergio Stanzani and Gianfranco Dell’Alba, Secretary General and President of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice welcomes the arrest of Jean-Pierre Bemba as an important step in the fight against impunity for crimes against humanity and war crimes and congratulates Belgium for having immediately executed the Arrest Warrant in accordance with their obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We would like to underline the importance of Belgium having the proper legislation in place to allow it to cooperate so effectively with the ICC and urge other States Parties who have not done so to implement the Rome Statute into their national laws, particularly given that this year we are celebrating ten years since its adoption.

“We welcome that the charges include crimes of sexual violence, which were significantly brutal in the Central African Republic, but also appear to reflect the overall experiences of victims, which is important for justice being seen to be done by the people. We look forward to the ICC Prosecutor continuing his investigations in the Central African Republic and urge him to maintain the policy focus on “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for the totality of crimes allegedly committed, irrespective of who they are or the side to which they may belong, before selecting the most representative crimes to prosecute. Justice should be impartial, not neutral, and prosecuting someone because of their membership in any particular group is as damaging to the credibility of international criminal justice as not prosecuting someone for the same reason. Focusing on those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes as a whole will increase the effectiveness of the investigations and prosecutions and will provide justice for more victims than would otherwise be possible.

“Finally, NPWJ calls on the ICC to take immediate steps to accelerate a focused, sustained and widespread outreach program in CAR, in order to facilitate two-way interaction with local populations, to promote understanding and to manage expectations. Outreach is not a luxury: it is an operational necessity. The more outreach that is done and the more people that interact with the ICC, the less unusual it is and the more the ICC can engage people in its work and offer protection to those with whom it interacts.”

For further information, contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-486-986 235 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.org or +32-2-548-3913.