Ex-VP of Congo seeks damages over war crime convictions

FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba poses for a photograph in Waterloo, Belgium. Benba was acquitted of alleged crimes in Central African Republic, and Monday March 11, 2019, via his lawyers, is seeking millions of euros (dollars) in compensation from the International Criminal Court. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, FILE)
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A former vice president of Congo who was acquitted on appeal of war crimes in Central African Republic is seeking millions of euros (dollars) in compensation from the International Criminal Court, his lawyers said Monday. 

Lawyers for Jean-Pierre Bemba last week filed an application asking judges at the global court to award Bemba a total of nearly 69 million euros ($77 million) for what they called a miscarriage of justice.

The sum includes damages for the decade Bemba spent in jail and compensation for legal costs and losses in the value of assets frozen by the court, the lawyers said.

“Mr. Bemba’s property was left over a 10-year period to devalue, dissipate, or simply rot,” they said in a statement.

Among the devalued assets the lawyers listed was a Boeing 727 jetliner, a plane built from the 1960s to 1980s for commercial passenger flights. Bemba’s aircraft was impounded in Portugal in 2008.

When he tried to get it back to help pay legal bills, “he was informed that the prosecution was unable to find the keys,” his lawyers said.

“The plane is now scrap. It still stands stranded on the tarmac at Faro Airport,” Bemba’s legal team said.

Bemba, a former military commander in Congo, was convicted in 2016 on two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes for a campaign of murder, rape and pillaging by his troops in Central African Republic during 2002-2003.

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court last year overturned Bemba’s 2016 convictions

The court had no comment Monday on the substance of the request.

“It is a request submitted to the judges. We have to wait for the judges’ decisions, and we can’t speculate on the outcome,” court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said in an email.

Bemba’s lawyers said that if he receives compensation from the court, the money would be used to “provide reparations to the people of the Central African Republic.”q