May 18, 2020 / 5:36 PM / 8 days ago

International Criminal Court rejects Ex-Congolese VP's damages claim

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Congolese vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted of war crimes by the court in 2018, was not entitled to any damages or compensation, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled on Monday.

Bemba’s lawyers had sought nearly 70 million euros ($75 million dollars) in compensation for unlawful detention, legal fees and losses due to the alleged mismanagement of assets seized by the court.

On Monday the judges ruled that “no grave and manifest miscarriage of justice occurred” and rejected the claims.

Bemba, a successful businessman and opposition politician before his arrest in 2008, was acquitted in 2018 of crimes committed by members of a militia group under his command.

The judges said Monday that because the court has no statutory limits on how long proceedings can last or on how long an accused is held in pre-trial detention, they could not compensate Bemba for his 10-year stint in the United Nations detention unit.

However they called on the court’s member states to review the statute urgently and said that expeditious proceedings were one of the corner stones of the right to a fair trial.

Lawyers for Bemba could not immediately be reached, but they have previously said they would look beyond the ICC if their claims were rejected in The Hague, possibly to the states that seized Bemba’s assets including planes, boats and villas and “left them to rot”.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; editing by Barbara Lewis

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