21st June 2016: the International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 years’ imprisonment. Bemba is the third person to be convicted by the court and is so far the highest-level official to be tried.
Bemba’s trial involved the largest number of witnesses for sexual violence in any ICC case to date, with over 5,200 victims participating in the case proceedings. SRT grantees Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and Physicians for Human Rights provide support and advocacy for victims of sexual violence carried out during the CAR conflict.
Bemba was convicted by the ICC on 21st March 2016 of two counts of crimes against humanity including murder and rape, and three counts of war crimes including murder, rape and pillaging. He was convicted in his capacity as leader of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC) for crimes committed in 2002-2003 in the Central African Republic (CAR). MLC troops supported the CAR’s then-President Ange-Félix Patassé’s efforts to suppress an attempted coup led by the former head of the CAR army. MLC forces entered the CAR in October 2002 and launched a campaign of rape, pillaging and murder against the civilian population.
Brigid Inder, WIGJ’s Executive Director, said, “This is the first sentencing decision by the ICC for an individual convicted of crimes of sexual violence as well as the first sentence issued for an individual charged with command responsibility […] Formal justice on its own is never enough to provide reconciliation and recovery for individuals and communities who have experienced the commission of crimes, but is irreplaceable as a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing and harm.”
Bemba has appealed against his conviction.
Full statements from the WIGJ and PHR websites:
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