Congolese ex-rebel leader Jean Pierre Bemba has been jailed for 18 years by the International Criminal Court in a landmark ruling for war crimes and sexual violence.
Bemba whose trial opened in November 2010 was found guilty of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In March, he was convicted by the ICC for failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people in the Central African Republic.
Ex-Congolese VP Jean-Pierre Bemba will serve 18 yrs in jail for rapes, murders in the Central African Republic -ICC pic.twitter.com/cQcmYbIj87— Edward Muhumuza (@edward_muhumuza) June 21, 2016
The three judges agreed with the prosecution that Bemba had retained “effective command and control” over 1,500 men he sent into the Central African Republic (CAR) to quell an attempted coup against the then president.
Bemba’s Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) is said to have carried out a brutal series of rapes and murders which experts say would have long-term traumatic effects on the people of the CAR.
An expert called by the prosecution who worked to establish the consequences of mass rapes committed in five months in the CAR reported high rates of post-traumatic stress disorders in dozens of casualties.
Bemba’s trial 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.
After the CAR conflict between 2002 and 2003, Bemba, a wealthy businessman-turned-warlord, became one of four vice presidents in President Joseph Kabila’s transitional government.
He however lost the bid to become the country’s president in the 2006 election when he lost to Kabila in a presidential run-off.
He fled the country the following year into what he called “forced exile” in Europe and was arrested in Brussels in 2008 and handed over to the ICC.