Former Congo VP imprisoned
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP):
The International Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced Congolese former vice-president, Jean-Pierre Bemba, to 18 years in prison for murders, rapes and acts of pillaging, committed by his troops in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) 2002 and 2003.
Presiding judge, Sylvia Steiner, said Bemba will get credit for the eight years he has already spent in ICC detention since his arrest in May 2008.
Bemba, a former Congolese senator and vice-president, was the commander of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo when he was asked in 2002 and 2003 to send troops by CAR president, Ange-Felix Patasse.
Human Rights Watch said the ruling offered "a measure of justice for victims of sexual violence and other grave crimes in the Central African Republic where armed groups have preyed on civilians with total impunity for more than a decade".
"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 of HRW.
HIGHEST YET PASSED
The sentence is the highest yet passed by the ICC, the world's first permanent war-crimes court, which has previously handed down sentences of 12 and 14 years in prison for two other Congolese militia leaders. The maximum sentence the judges can hand down is life in prison.
At the time of his conviction in March, Steiner said women, girls and men were targeted by Bemba's forces, often with multiple soldiers raping women and girls in front of other family members.