- DR Congo
The ICC is expecting a quick transfer of Congo’s exiled former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was arrested in Belgium Saturday on charges of war crimes allegedly perpetrated in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.
“There is no reason to believe that the extradition will not be applied. A country that arrested a suspect that quickly after the International Criminal Court warrant is highly likely to continue its collaboration with the court,” the tribunal’s spokeswoman Sonia Robla told FRANCE 24.
A former rebel warlord, Bemba is accused of major crimes – rape, massive looting and torture - when he crossed with his men the river to the Central African Republic (CAR) to support the country’s leader Ange Felix Patasse, who was battling rebel forces.
His arrest is considered as a breakthrough which could have major implications on international justice.
“For the ICC – it’s the first major arrest. Until now the court managed to try minor militia leaders. Bemba on the other hand was arrested for massive crimes,” FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Congo Arnaud Zajtman.
The arrest is also significant on a political level in his country and in the CAR. Bemba is one of Congo’s main opposition leaders. This arrest could end his careegoor as President Joseph Kabila’s rival.
“The opposition could search for a new leader and create a new political party,” said Zajtman. “The question is whether this arrest will have positive implications for democracy and whether the opposition will be able to play its role?”
“There are also political implications for the Central African Republic,” added Zajtman. “A political dialogue is announced for next year in the CAR. Patasse called Bemba to get his support in this procedure, but with this arrest, Patasse might find it difficult to play an important role in the dialogue.”
Bemba’s Congo Liberation Movement party said the arrest was politically motivated and had been deliberately timed as Congo’s opposition was preparing to name him as its formal spokesman.
"I can assure you that the ICC is an independent international judiciary institution and that we are not influenced by political developments,” said ICC Official Hala Alamine.