"Mr Bemba can not be held criminally liable for the crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic", presiding judge Christine Van den Wyngaert told the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He denied responsibility for the crimes.
Bemba led the MLC party in the Democratic Republic of Congo and later became one of the country's four vice presidents in 2003 as part of a transitional government.
The Trial Chamber found that Bemba knew that his militia troops were committing, or were about to commit crimes, but failed to take reasonable measures to deter them or hold those responsible to account.
But the year before, when he was a rebel leader, Bemba is accused of failing to stop his private army - known as the MLC - from waging a campaign of rape, murder and pillage against civilians in neighbouring Central African Republic.
Dismissing his 18-year-sentence, she said trial judges had failed to consider his efforts to stop crimes committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) once he became aware of them, and how hard it would have been for him to control the troops' actions from a distance.
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Van den Wyngaert said it was up to the trial chamber to decide whether to release Bemba from his 18-year sentence.
It was celebration galore on the streets of DRC's capital Kinshasa as residents welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision on former VP Jean Pierre Bemba.
Judge Monageng and Judge Hofmański found that all criminal acts for which Mr Bemba was convicted fell within the scope of the case that the Prosecutor had brought against him. Judge Christine Van den Wyngaert, Presiding Judge in this appeal, read a summary of the Judgment during a public hearing.
The appeals court at The Hague on Friday ruled in a majority opinion to acquit the former warlord, finding that Bemba had been erroneously convicted.
It remains to be seen what Bemba will do once he is released.
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