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ICC Senteneces Former VP of the Congo to 18 Years for Rape, Murder Committed by His Troops

Bemba (Middle) appearing in Court (Photo via

Bemba (middle) appearing in Court (Photo via

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for rape and pillage committed by his troops, becoming the highest-level official to be sentenced at the international criminal court.

Bemba, 53, wearing a blue suit and tie, watched impassively from the dock during the hearing at The Hague on Tuesday.

The former militia commander is the third person convicted by the controversial “court of last resort” set up to try the world’s worst crimes in 2002.

Campaigners welcomed the lengthy prison term.

“Today’s sentencing marks a critical turning point for the thousands of women, children and men who were victims of Bemba’s orchestrated campaign of rape and murder,” said Karen Naimer, the director of the sexual violence in conflict zones program at Physicians for Human Rights.

“The punishment meted out today can’t turn back the clock, but it can bring a measure of closure to those victims who’ve waited patiently more than a dozen years for this day to come,” she said.

The conviction was the ICC’s first verdict to recognize rape as a weapon of war and to employ the doctrine of command responsibility: that leaders are accountable for the crimes of their subordinates, the group said.

The court told Bemba that the years he had spent behind bars since his arrest in Belgium in 2008 and subsequent detention would be deducted from his sentence.

Earlier in the day Bemba’s lawyers said they would appeal against his war crimes conviction and press for a mistrial.

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it was an important day for international criminal justice. Bemba was found guilty in March of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his private army – the Congolese Liberation Movement – after he sent them into the neighboring Central African Republic from October 2002 to March 2003 to put down a coup.

“I believe this is a very important day for international criminal justice, especially when it comes to sexual and gender-based crimes,” the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told Agence France-Presse news agency at the time.

The prosecution had called for a minimum 25-year jail term.

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