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Congo Denies Instigating ICC Charges Against Former VP Bemba

VOA News - June 16, 2009
Jean-Pierre Bemba

The Democratic Republic of Congo government has denied involvement in the war crime charges against former Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba. 

The denial follows the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling Monday that Bemba should stand trial on charges of war crimes.

Bemba's militia group has been accused of raping women and children as well as killing innocent civilians during clashes with government forces, charges Bemba denies.

He was arrested on an ICC warrant during a visit to Brussels in May 2008.

Kikaya Bin Karubi, the Congolese ambassador designate to the United Kingdom, told VOA Kinshasa does not condone crimes against humanity.

"The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the population here would like to see justice do its work? and the President Joseph Kabila has said it clearly that there would be zero tolerance when it comes to perpetrators of crimes against humanity," Karubi said.

He said Kinshasa doesn't have the power to control a decision of the ICC.

"I don't think that the? government is that powerful to be able to manipulate international justice. Really, that is a big insult to the international community," he said.

Karubi said Bemba's followers should establish his innocence.

"Supporters of former Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba think that he is not guilty. Now the international justice system gives them an opportunity to go and prove it before the tribunal," Karubi said.

He said Kinshasa will contain any backlash from Bemba's supporters due to the ICC's ruling.

"The government will take up its responsibilities to stabilize the situation here," he said.

Karubi said Kinshasa does not wield the authority to shield the former vice president from the ICC's arrest warrant abroad.

"Let me tell you that the Congolese police have no powers in Brussels. That is a foreign country. If anybody has to protect him in Belgium, maybe it is the Belgian police. When he was in Congo he was protected. He was safe here," Karubi said.

Bemba was one of four vice-presidents in a transitional government in Congo between 2003 and 2006. But he lost the 2006 election to President Joseph Kabila.

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