Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo Sentenced for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC Courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC Courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016. © ICC-CPI

21 June 2016
The International Criminal Court has sentenced former Democratic Republic of Congo vice-president to 18 years in prison.

On 21 June 2016, the former vice-president for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congolese politician, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment by the International Criminal Court (ICC). On 21 March 2016, the ICC found Bemba guilty of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging), which he committed as a military commander in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.

Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner stated that they found the crimes of murder, rape, and pillaging to be of “serious gravity”. Bemba, a former Democratic Republic of Congo vice-president, is the first person that the ICC has held directly responsible for his subordinates' crimes such as rape against especially defenceless victims with particular cruelty. One of his victims described how she was still a virgin when she was raped by Bemba’s troops in front of her father who was held at gunpoint by other soldiers. “After the attacks, some parents found their daughters lying on the ground crying and bleeding from their vaginas,” said Steiner as she described the rape.

The ICC also found that the crime of pillaging was committed with particular cruelty. Bemba’s troops were paid very little, which led them to pillage. Furthermore, Bemba was found not to have disciplined his troops and deterred them from committing these crimes.  
“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, international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

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