The International Criminal Court (ICC) has found ex- Vice President of Congo republic, Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes.
The 53 year-old was arrested in Brussels, Belgium in 2008. He was later transferred to the ICC detention center in The Hague. His trial has been ongoing since 2010.
The trial was to determine Pierre Bemba’s command responsibility regarding the activities of his troops in the Central African Republic. The court also focused on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and ruled that Pierre Bemba committed various atrocities in the Central African Republic, including mass murder, rape and pillage. This is the first time the ICC has focused on the use of sexual violence as a warfare weapon.
Pierre Bemba was alleged to have led the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) which committed war crimes in the Central African Republic. Although Bemba’s lawyers had argued that the moment his rebels left the premises of the country, they no longer answered to him, the prosecuting attorneys asserted that Bemba was well aware that the troops were “committing crimes and did not take all necessary and reasonable measures within his power to prevent or repress their commission.”
In 1993, a Congolese presidential election saw President Ange-Felix Patasse win over former president André Kolingba.
In 2001, ex-president Kolingba attempted a coup to depose of the ruling President Patasse. However, the coup was suppressed with the aid of Libyan and Chad troops as well as Congolese rebels.
The court ruling left Jean-Pierre Bemba charged with two counts of crimes against humanity, involving murder and rape, as well as three counts of war crimes – murder, rape and pillaging in the Central African Republic.
Sylvia Steiner the presiding judge said the MLC soldiers had attacked civilians regardless of age or gender.
“The civilian population was the primary rather than the incidental target of the attack,” she said.