DRC Opposition Picks War Crimes Defendant as Candidate

Posted July 24th, 2011 at 7:55 am (UTC-5)
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The Democratic Republic of Congo's main opposition party has named Jean Pierre-Bemba, who is on trial for war crimes at The Hague, as it presidential candidate.

The Movement for the Liberation of Congo announced its decision after a party meeting on Saturday.

Bemba, a former Congolese vice president, is currently in jail at the International Criminal Court, facing three counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity.

He is accused of leading a militia that murdered and raped hundreds of people in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Bemba finished second in Congo's 2006 presidential election to incumbent Joseph Kabila.

The president is running for re-election in polls set to take place this November.

Mr. Kabila is favored to win after pushing through changes in election law that eliminated the need for a run-off vote. Under the new system, the candidate with the most votes in the first round wins, even if he or she does not have a majority.

It was not immediately clear how Bemba could campaign or serve from his ICC jail cell.

He has been in ICC custody since July 2008, when he surrendered to the court after being arrested in Belgium.

Bemba had fled Congo in 2007, after his troops clashed with Mr. Kabila's soldiers in the capital, Kinshasa, leaving hundreds of people dead.