On Friday, June 8, the appellate court of the worldwide criminal court in the Hague acquitted the former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba, who two years ago was sentenced to 18 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, reports DW.
Bemba was sentenced in 2016 to 18 years in prison, after being convicted of charges of murder, rape and pillaging in the Central African Republic (CAR) during a 2002-2003 coup.
Van den Wijngaert said Bemba's efforts to stop the crimes "extinguished his responsibility in full".
Bemba, who was vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2003 to 2006, was then ordered to pay a $323,670.00 fine to the court's fund supporting victims of atrocities.
The Trial Chamber found that Bemba knew that his militia troops were committing, or were about to commit crimes, but failed to take reasonable measures to deter them or hold those responsible to account.
Bemba, the son of a businessman, became rich during years of close association with former Congolese leader Mobutu Sese Seko.
But the two dissenting judges wrote that the majority had used the wrong standards for review and that its findings were, therefore, deeply flawed.
Bemba, wearing a suit and tie, showed little emotion as Presiding Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert reversed his convictions.
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It was celebration galore on the streets of DRC's capital Kinshasa as residents welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision on former VP Jean Pierre Bemba.
But in a scathing assessment, the Hague-based ICC's appeal judges said Bemba was "erroneously" convicted for specific criminal acts.
More than 5,200 victims participated in Bemba's trial.
Bemba was the most senior suspect convicted by the global court and his 18-year sentence was the highest handed down in the court's history.
"Twenty years after its creation, has the ICC just scuttled itself?" she said in a statement.
Bemba's release may pave the way for him to retake the reins of his political party.
It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released.