THE HAGUE, 10 JUNE 2018 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) has overturned the 18-year conviction on war crimes and crimes against humanity of former rebel leader and former vice-president of DR Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Bemba was found guilty in 2016 of crimes committed in neighboring Central African Republic.

The court found him guilty of failing to prevent rebels killing and raping.

A judge at the ICC, Christine Van den Wijngaert, said Bemba cannot be held responsible for crimes committed by the rebels. The judge said the judges in 2016 failed to take into account Bemba’s attempts to stop the crimes once he was made aware they were taking place.

The judge argued that judges who convicted Bemba in 2016 “ignored significant testimonial evidence that Bemba’s ability to investigate and punish crimes in CAR was limited.”

Amnesty International said the judgment was a “huge blow” for victims of a “horrifying campaign of rape and sexual violence.”

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called the ruling “regrettable and troubling.”

More than 5,000 survivors took part in the proceedings against Bemba.

The court heard how Bemba sent more than 1,000 fighters to CAR back in 2002 to help then President Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.

Bemba has already spent almost a decade in jail, but he will not be immediately released from detention in The Hague because he lost a separate appeal against a conviction for bribing witnesses.

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