Congo opposition leader arrested in Belgium

May 25th, 2008 - 9:04 am ICT by admin  

Brussels/The Hague, May 25 (DPA) Congo’s former vice president and opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has been arrested in Belgium on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges for his involvement in Central African Republic, the International Criminal Court in The Hague has said. Bemba, who was arrested near Brussels Saturday, is accused of ordering his Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) forces in a “systematic attack against a civilian population” in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003, engaging in rape, torture and other crimes. The ICC also accused him of committing similar crimes in Congo.

His MLC fighters intervened in the neighbouring Central African Republic when President Ange-Felix Patasse asked them to help put down a coup.

Bemba is the first person arrested in the ICC’s investigation of war crimes there.

“Mr Bemba’s arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes,” prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said.

“There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes. There are no excuses for the rape of a little girl, with her parents watching. There are no excuses for commanders ordering authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces. We have evidence that Mr Bemba committed crimes,” Ocampo added.

Bemba lost elections to Congo’s President Laurent Kabila in 2006, and went into exile in Portugal in April 2007 after government troops routed his roughly 600 fighters in downtown Kinshasa clashes which killed hundreds.

He was charged by the ICC May 16.

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