ICC Sentences Former Congo Vice-President to 18 Years in Prison
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison.
Bemba has been convicted for the murders, rapes and acts of pillaging carried out by his troops in Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003. Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner said the former vice-president will get credit for the eight years he has already spent in detention since being arrested by the ICC in May 2008.
Rights group applauds sentencing
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed the ruling, saying it should act as a warning to other leaders who sanction human rights violations.
“Other commanders should take notice that they, too, can be held accountable for rapes and other serious abuses committed by troops under their control,” said Geraldine Mattioli Zeltner of HRW.
She also highlighted the importance of the ruling for victims who suffered at the hands of Congolese troops in 2002 and 2003. Bemba’s conviction offers “a measure of justice for victims of sexual violence and other grave crimes in the Central African Republic where armed groups have preyed on civilians with total impunity for more than a decade,” she said.
A much-needed conviction for the ICC
The successful conviction of Bemba is a much-needed victory for the ICC, as the court’s authority in Africa continues to weaken. Last week, Burundi threatened to pull out of the Rome Statute unless the ICC dropped investigations into post-election violence that has taken place since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term victory.
Increased pressure is being placed on the ICC by various members of the African Union (AU). They threaten to pull out of all agreements with the court, accusing it of targeting African leaders while allowing atrocities elsewhere in the world to go unchecked. And, while the conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba won’t do anything to calm accusations of targeting African leaders, it may remind heads of state that the ICC can prosecute former leaders – something it has often failed to do.
By Vincent van Zeijst – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15414322