ICC sentences former DR Congo’s VP Bemba to 18 years in jail

A file photo of former vice-president of the
A file photo of former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo. ICC has sentenced him to 18 years in jail. AFP PHOTO | PETER DEJONG

Judges at the International Criminal Court Tuesday sentenced former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in jail for a series of brutal rapes and murders in Central African Republic over a decade ago.

“The chamber sentences Mr Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to a total of 18 years of imprisonment,” said judge Sylvia Steiner.

The ICC Judge ruled that the former militia leader had failed to exercise control over his private army sent into CAR in late October 2002 where they carried out “sadistic” rapes, murders and pillaging of “particular cruelty.”

He is the highest-ranking official to date to be sentenced.

Bemba, 53, was found guilty in March of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his private army called the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), which he sent to neighbouring CAR from October 2002 to March 2003 to put down a coup.

The judges found in their March 21 verdict that the former Congolese vice president turned a blind eye to a reign of terror by some 1,500 of his troops, sent to the CAR to prop up then president Ange-Felix Patasse.

Despite knowing what was happening, 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.

As well as the issue of rape as a weapon of war, the Bemba case is also the first at the ICC to focus on a military commander’s responsibility for abuses by his troops, even if he did not order them.


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