The ICC is ordering the conditional release of Jean-Pierre Bemba, politician of the
, stating somewhat counterintuitively that his "continued detention" is unnecessary to "ensure [his] appearance at trial." According to the Dutch news service NRC Handelsblad, Bemba’s lawyers attributed the ruling to the court's decision that the former vice-president was no longer suspected of having "personally committed atrocities."
Individual Criminal Responsibility "Congo is the subject of one of the first investigations by the new International Criminal Court at the Hague," wrote Ishbel Matheson of the London Times in 2006, "and Bemba is squarely in the frame." Even in 2006, the question of "Bemba’s responsibility for his men’s conduct" was seen as being a likely problem in a prosecution. "At stake," wrote Matheson, "is a legal and moral principle that we all have an interest in defending—that of individual criminal responsibility." In a 2008 blog post, Lorenzo Wakefield of the University of the Western Cape’s Community Law Centre noted that the Rwandan Jean Paul Akayesu had based his defense in the International Criminal Tribunal on not having personally raped Tutsi women. Bemba, he wrote, "goes a bit further and alleges that he did not order these crimes by his troops. That is where the possible next generation jurisprudence kicks in."
The Victims Moreno-Ocampo pointed out that with the case of many ICC-sought individuals, "the victims do not have the luxury of time." The victims of Bemba's soldiers, The London Times Toomey reported in 2003, were raped, hacked into pieces, and forced to eat family members' organs. The BBC's Mike Thomson in late 2008 heard the story of a woman gang-raped while lying on the body of her dead husband, who had been shot before her eyes. The trial, Thomson wrote, gave such victims hope.