The international Criminal Court in Den Hague (The Hague) has found the former Congolese commander, Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes.
For the first time since its inception in 2002, the International Criminal Court at The Hague has passed a guilty verdict on a warlord for perpetrating among other things, rape as an act of war.
The landmark six-year trial was the first to focus on rape as a war crime. The former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president was convicted of three charges of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity.
Bemba was accused of failing to stop his Movement for the Liberation of Congo fighters from conducting hundreds of rapes and murders in neighboring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 as he sent in over 1,000 troops to suppress an attempted government coup.
“The civilian population was the primary as opposed to incidental target,” presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner said in pronouncing the conviction.
She also read a list of specific crimes committed by Bemba’s troops, which included the rape of one victim by 12 soldiers; the rape of a 10-year-old girl by a soldier; and a man held at gunpoint who was raped after soldiers also raped his wife.
Steiner acknowledged Bemba spent the time across the border in the DRC but noted, “Bemba both could and did issue operational orders. Bemba knew that the MLC forces were committing or were about to commit the crimes.”
Bemba, who was arrested in 2008, is the highest-ranking official convicted by the court. His lawyers argued that his troops, once over the border, were no longer under his command. He showed no emotion when the unanimous verdict was read Monday.