The International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced former Congolese Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba to 18 years in prison for crimes against humanity and war crimes including rape. The crimes occurred in the Central African Republic between 2002-2003 while Bemba was leading the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC).
The ICC handed down the sentence on June 21. Prosecutors had initially asked for a 25 year sentence. Bemba may qualify for early release in four years due to the fact that he has been held in custody for the last 8 years. Bemba’s lawyers have stated that they will appeal the conviction. They intend to demonstrate on appeal that Bemba was not in fact the leader of the MLC.
Bemba’s case—including the initial guilty verdict in April 2016—drew international attention. His case is the first conviction to recognize rape as a weapon of war in the ICC. A record number of 5,200 civilian victims participated in the trial. His case was also presided over by three high profile female judges, and was prosecuted by the ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. However his case has also drawn negative attention for the lack of punishment for human rights abuses in Congo itself during the civil war.
First ICC conviction for rape as weapon of war, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 18 April 2016.
Congolese politician goes before international court, New York Times, 5 July 2008.
Bemba Case, International Criminal Court.