The International Criminal Court today ordered the conditional release of Congolese rebel warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba pending trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The court said it could not release Bemba until it had decided which country he would stay in until his trial began, Reuters reports.
Prosecutors have accused Bemba of leading rebels from the DRC in a campaign of torture, rape and murder in the neighbouring Central African Republic. Bemba, who was arrested in Belgium in May 2008, denies all the charges.
On June 15 Bemba, the highest-profile suspect so far brought before the world’s first permanent war crimes court, was ordered to stand trial on two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes.
Bemba’s three previous requests for release pending trial were all denied, but the court ruled on Friday that conditions had changed since its last decision on the subject on April 14.
It said it was no longer necessary to detain Bemba to ensure he appears at trial, to keep him from obstructing the hearings or to keep him from committing new war crimes.
But the court said it first needed to conduct hearings to decide where Bemba will be released, among the six countries he has requested — Belgium, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and South Africa.
Among other things, the court said it needed to know whether any of those countries would have any problems ensuring Bemba’s security or facilitating a series of personal guarantees he has offered the court.
Those guarantees include offers to hand in his passport, to present himself to police daily and to keep an open round-trip ticket from the host country to the court’s location in The Hague.
Pic: Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba of DRC