Between October 2002 and March 2003, an armed conflict was fought in the Central African Republic (CAR). Rebel forces led by the former Chief of Staff of the CAR army, François Bozizé, mounted an offensive to overthrow then President, Ange-Félix Patassé. In order to quell the rebellion, Patassé requested the militia combatants of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) led by former vice-President of neighbouring DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to enter the country. Bemba’s militias are widely accused of committing murder and widespread acts of sexual violence against the civilian population of the CAR.
The situation was referred to the ICC in December 2004, with the announcement of formal investigations in May 2007. On 23 May 2008, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo accusing him of three counts of crimes against humanity and five counts of war crimes. Bemba was arrested near Brussels by the Belgian authorities on 24 May 2008, and transferred to The Hague in July 2008. His arrest was the first concerning the situation in the CAR.
Confirmation of charges hearings were held from 12-15 January 2009 at the ICC. The proceedings were adjourned on 6 March 2009 after the Pre-Trial Chamber requested the Prosecution to consider submitting an amended document containing the charges, stating that the evidence appeared to indicate a different mode of responsibility. The Prosecution submitted an amended document on 30 March 2009 charging criminal liability as a commander or superior under Article 28(a) of the Rome Statute. On 16 June 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against Bemba.
Bemba will face five counts of murder and rape as crimes against humanity, as well as murder, rape and pillaging as war crimes. He is charged on the basis of his criminal responsibility under Article 28(a). However, the Chamber found insufficient evidence to support the remaining charges against Bemba, also determining that the Prosecution had failed to demonstrate that Bemba had the necessary criminal intent for responsibility as a co-perpetrator with Ange-Félix Patassé.
On 19 October 2010 the Appeals Chamber dismissed an appeal challenging the admissibility of the case, paving the way for the trial to begin.
On 22 November 2010, the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo commenced before Trial Chamber III at the ICC.
Om 17 December 2010 the Trial Chamber III decided that there had not been a change of circumstances sufficient to justify a modification of its ruling on Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo’s continued detention.
On 23 December 2010 the Trial Chamber III granted participating status to 553 of 653 alleged victims and rejected the Defence’s request of disclosure of non-redacted versions of the participant’s applications.
Situation in Central African Republic