Ex-Congolese Leader Bemba sentenced to jail-term by ICC
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced the ex-Congolese military leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, to a term of 18 years in jail for crimes against humanity and war-crimes stemming from his involvement in the conflict in the Central-African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The ICC judge, Sylvia Steiner, ruled that the former military leader had failed to exercise control over his private army sent in to the Central-African Republic in late October 2002, where they carried out “sadistic” rapes, murders and pillaging of “particular cruelty.” He is the highest ranking officer to date to be sentenced.
Bemba was sentenced to 16 years for murder as a crime against humanity; 16 years for murder as a war-crime; 18 years for rape as a war-crime; 18 years for rape as a crime against humanity and 16 years for pillaging as a war crime, with all the sentences to run concurrently. The court noted that the rape was particularly disturbing, as it was against defenceless victims and with particular cruelty. It is possible that Bemba will make an appeal against the sentence.
The judges found in their verdict that the former Congolese Vice-President turned a blind eye to a reign of terror by some 1500 of his troops sent to CAR to prop-up the then President Ange-Felix Patasse. “Though he was aware that what was happening in the region, Bemba failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures to prevent a litany of crimes, which included the gang-rapes of men, women and children, sometimes as their relatives were forced to watch”, the judges said.
The Bemba case has been ongoing before the ICC since 2008. In March, ICC unanimously found that Bemba was guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war-crimes (murder, rape and pillaging), for his role in the armed-conflict in the CAR in 2002 and 2003. In September, Bemba pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with the administration of justice, after he and four members of his legal team were ordered to stand trial on those charges. He is, however, considered to be a hero by many Congolese and his conviction is seen as an international conspiracy to destabilize their country.