March 11, 2019 / 2:57 PM / 2 months ago

Ex-Congolese VP seeks damages from war crimes court

FILE PHOTO: Congolese opposition leader and former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba is pictured after a news conference in Brussels, Belgium July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - Former Congolese vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year, is seeking nearly 70 million euros (57 million pounds) in damages.

Bemba’s lawyers on Monday said paperwork had been filed requesting compensation for unlawful detention, legal fees and losses due to the alleged mismanagement of assets seized by the court.

The assets included seven airplanes, three villas in Portugal, three parcels of land in the Democratic Republic of Congo and two boats, said his lawyer, Peter Haynes.

During 10 years in detention, Bemba’s assets “were simply allowed to rot”, Haynes told journalists in The Hague.

The claim totals just under half of the ICC’s annual budget of some 150 million euros. No date was set for when the filing would be considered.

Defendants have sought damages from the court in the past for unlawful detention, but none were awarded. A court spokesman said the filing in the Bemba case would be considered by the judges and had no additional comment.

Bemba, a successful businessman and opposition politician before his arrest, was acquitted May last year of crimes committed by members of a militia under his command.

Bemba’s legal team said in the event the court awarded damages, part would go toward paying reparation for war victims.

Reporting by Stehanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Alison Williams

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