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DR Congo ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes

By on March 21, 2016

Former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has been found guilty of war crimes in a landmark trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Pronouncing the verdict, presiding judge Sylvia Steiner said Bemba had failed to discipline his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers as they rampaged across the neighbouring country.

The judge said Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, had had practical and formal control over his soldiers during their intervention in support of Central African Republic’s then-president Ange-Felix Patasse.

Mister Bemba had sent more than 1,000 fighters to help put down an attempted coup. He will remain in custody until sentencing.

The court in The Hague found him guilty of several charges including rape and murder. He is expected to appeal.

It is the first time the ICC has focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect has been convicted over crimes committed by others under his command.

Carrie Comer, from the International Federation for Human Rights, said the verdict was “a historic moment for victims of such unspeakable atrocities”.

It was “a strong message from ICC judges that commanders must prevent and punish war crimes,” she wrote on Twitter.

It is alleged that for a period of five months Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) rebel fighters killed hundred of civilians, raped women and looted.

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