Former Congolese vice president found guilty of rape and murder charges

Former Congolese vice president found guilty of rape and murder charges

- Former Congolese rebel leader accused of war crime charges at the ICC.

- Mr. Bemba is being accused of rape and murder.

- He is expected to appeal his sentence.

Former Congolese vice president found guilty of rape and murder charges

Jean-Pierre Bemba in 2010Image copyrightReuters

Image caption

Jean-Pierre Bemba was arrested in Belgium in 2008

Former Congolese vice president, Jean-Pierre Bemba has been found guilty of war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The court in The Hague found him guilty of several charges including rape and murder. He is expected to appeal his sentence.

The former vice president who also doubles as a rebel leader was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. Mr. Bemba has also been accused of sending more than 1,000 fighters to help put down an attempted coup.

It is alleged that for a period of five months Bemba's Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel fighters killed hundreds of civilians, raped women and looted. The court heard horrific accounts, including how a man, his wife, his daughters and his granddaughter were all gang-raped by militiamen.

The 53 year old former rebel leader ‘s trial  marks  the first time the ICC has focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect has been convicted over crimes committed by others under his command.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba is to remain in custody until sentencing. Mr. Bemba’s conviction for sexual violence is expected to send a message to high-ranking soldiers and militiamen in the DRC that have been accused  of sexual violence.

Welcoming the verdict, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said: "While the reality of the crimes is appalling, the significance of this decision is to be celebrated. What this decision affirms is that commanders are responsible for the acts of the forces under their control."

Jean-Pierre Bemba led the MLC during DR Congo's brutal civil war. He is the son of a prominent businessman and a former assistant to ex-Congolese President Mobutu Sese Seko. After a peace deal in DR Congo in 2003, he laid down his arms and joined an interim government. Bemba is the most senior figure to face judgement at the court and the third person to be convicted since the court's founding in 2002.

Germain Katanga and Thomas Lubanga, both Congolese former warlords, have previously been found guilty of offences.

 

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