By Joyce J Wangu
The first victory is that Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty on command of responsibility. Another first in this judgement is the fact that sexual violence against men has been charged as rape, as opposed to being subsumed under another crime such as torture
When former Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba was found guilty of five counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes on Monday, thousands of survivors from the Central African Republic gave a sigh of relief. Finally, they would have some sort of reprieve after 14-years of waiting for justice.
More than 5,000 victims were granted the right to participate in the hearings – the highest number in any of the cases before the court.
Karine Bonneau, international justice director at the Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), which supported victims from Central African Republic at the trial, welcomed the decision.
“There were more than 1,000 rapes.This is the first time that the ICC has convicted anyone of command responsibility. It is very important that the people who gave the orders should be held responsible. It will now be up to the court to determine reparations and restitution. They may be more medical and psychological support for the victims as well as compensation,” she said.
The International Criminal Court delivered its landmark judgment that found the ex-vice president of Democratic Republic of Congo guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging.) In essence, Bemba was charged with two counts of sexual violence (rape as a war crime and rape as a crime against humanity).
Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda termed the verdict as historic.
“Justice has finally been served. This marks a very important day for international criminal justice especially when it comes to sexual and gender-based crime.We will spare no efforts to continue to bring accountability for such heinous crimes in future cases,” she said in a statement. Bemba is the first person to be found guilty at the ICC based on command responsibility.
It is also the first time the ICC will be dealing with reparations for sexual crimes. And it is also the first ICC Trial to address the situation in Central African Republic. Read more about: What Bemba judgment means in addressing rape as a weapon of war, Significance of Bemba rape charges: