ICC prosecutor hails 'historic' verdict in Bemba case

21st March 2016, Comments 0 comments

The chief war crimes prosecutor on Monday hailed a "historic" verdict after judges found former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes by his private army in Central African Republic.

"I believe this is a very important day for international criminal justice especially when it comes to sexual and gender-based crimes," International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told AFP, describing it as a "historic day".

For the victims, justice had finally been done, she said.

"It's been a long time that they have been waiting for justice and I believe that today with the verdict has been done."

The judges found Bemba guilty on all five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces in the Central African Republic from late October 2002 to March 2003.

It is the first such verdict at the ICC to highlight both sexual violence as a weapon of war and a military commander's overall responsibility for the actions of his troops.

"Usually military commanders would think that they will not have any responsibility for the crimes that happen in the field," Bensouda told AFP.

Her office had shown that even if he was not always on the ground as a military commander "he has effectively command and control of his troops" and could have stopped them or punished them.

Bemba will be sentenced at a later date, and Bensouda said her office was carefully preparing its case.

But she refused to be drawn on whether a life sentence was appropriate.


© 2016 AFP

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