UN Special Representative welcomes the landmark conviction of former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba by the ICC for rape

By Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-Genera
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The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, welcomes the conviction of former Congolese rebel leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba by the Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 21 March 2016 for rape as a war crime and crime against humanity.

“I commend this landmark decision of the ICC and its contribution to overall efforts toward the fight against impunity for violations of international criminal law including sexual violence, as a war crime and a crime against humanity,” Special Representative Bangura said.

“This judgement sends a strong signal that no political or military leader is above the law and no woman or girl beneath it. Prosecuting such crimes could deter potential perpetrators and therefore should be seen as a crucial aspect of prevention.” Ms. Bangura noted.

These atrocities were committed in the Central African Republic from October 2002 to March 2003 by a contingent of Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops. Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba was acting as a military commander with effective authority and control over the forces that committed these crimes.

By applying the principle of command responsibility, the ICC has built upon precedence set by the International Criminal Tribunals in recognising sexual violence as an international crime. The ICC is sending a clear and unambiguous message to military commanders, reminding them of their obligation to prevent and punish such crimes committed by their troops, or face the consequences.

“This conviction clearly demonstrates to the survivors of sexual violence that the international community is on their side. It also reminds perpetrators that when serious sexual violence crimes are committed, it does not matter who you are, or where you are, we will go after you and get you”, Special Representative Bangura reiterated.

“I acknowledge the resilience of survivors of sexual violence crimes committed by the MLC troops as well as the unflinching quest for justice by those who testified during the trial. It is imperative for the international community to also prioritise reparations for the survivors, their families and communities, and that those who were affected are aware of the justice that has been rendered”. Ms. Bangura added.