The International Criminal Court (ICC) has on Monday in The Hague convicted Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Jean-Pierre Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006.
The prosecutors said on Tuesday in The Hague the conviction made Bemba the highest-ranking politician convicted by the international war crimes court.
The prosecutors said Bemba was judged as being responsible for a campaign of rape and murder in Central African Republic.
Sylvia Steiner, the International Criminal Court’s Presiding Judge, said Bemba, who served as vice president from 2003 to 2006, failed to discipline or restrain his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers.
The judge said the soldiers rampaged through the neighbouring country in 2002 and 2003.
Steiner, reading from an unusually graphic judgement, said the MLC soldiers by force knowingly and intentionally invaded the bodies of the victims.
He said they penetrated the victims’ anuses, vaginas or other bodily openings with their penises.
Steiner said the case was the first in which the ICC had found a high official directly responsible for the crimes of his subordinates, as well as the first to focus primarily on crimes of sexual violence committed in war.
The Presiding Judge ordered that Bemba be held in custody pending sentencing at a later date.
Meanwhile, Zeid Al’Hussein, UN Human Rights Commissioner, has described the verdict as a step toward eradicating the horrendous sexual crimes which had blighted the lives of so many women.
“The verdict is satisfying but comes too late.
“Some of the victims of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s men are dead now, he must pay, because he’s guilty,’’ he said.
Jean-Pierre Boga, a teacher in Bangui, said the victims must be compensated.
Bemba’s supporters in Congo reacted indignantly to the verdict. (Reuters/NAN).
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