The International Criminal Court has
sentenced ex-rebel leader and
former Congolese vice president
Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years for
murders, rapes and pillaging
committed by his troops in the Central African Republic more than a
The verdicts announced today Tuesday, June 21, focused on the
actions of his troops, as Bemba
commanded a private army of 1,500 men who intervened in the
neighbouring Central African Republic's civil war.
"The chamber sentences Mr Jean-
Pierre Bemba Gombo to a total of 18
years of imprisonment," said judge
Sylvia Steiner, ruling that the former
militia leader had failed to exercise control over his private army sent
into the Central African Republic in
late October 2002 where they
carried out "sadistic" rapes, murders and pillaging of "particular cruelty".
Fadi El Abdullah, a spokesman for
the ICC told Al Jazeera the ruling was "important for the victims" and "the first time they would see justice for the crimes they suffered from". Prosecutors at the ICC had called for
a minimum 25-year jail term in the
landmark case, the first to focus on
rape as a weapon of war by the ICC,
which was set up in 2002 to try the
world's worst crimes.
Bemba was convicted in March on
two counts of crimes against
humanity as well as three counts of
war crimes. His arrest in 2008 came
as a surprise both to Bemba and his
supporters and opponents at home. He had been living in semi-exile in
Europe for several years when
prosecutors sprung a trap by issuing an arrest warrant during a visit to Belgium, Congo's former colonial master.
His forces the Movement for the
Liberation of Congo militia (MLC) had deliberately targeted civilians as part of a "modus operandi" as they
sought to halt the coup bid against
the Central African Republic's then- president Ange-Felix Patasse.
Men, women and children were all
raped - in one case three
generations of the same family were
gang-raped by MLC soldiers who
held them at gunpoint and forced relatives to watch. Bemba's lawyer have already said they will appeal against his conviction. Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said the sentence offered "a measure of justice" for the victims.
"Other commanders should take
notice that they, too, can be held
accountable for rapes and other
serious abuses committed by troops
under their control," she said.
Source: BBC/Al Jazeera