[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Monday declared unanimously [judgment, PDF] that ex-Congolese military leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is guilty of two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes for his role in the armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. The case [ICC press release] of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo [ICC case materials] has lasted almost eight years, following Bemba’s arrest by Belgian authorities in 2008. Bemba [BBC profile] was on trial before the ICC for war crimes committed in CAR during his time as the president and commander-in-chief of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) [CRS backgrounder, PDF], a rebel group with operations in the north of the country during the second Congo war. The ICC found Bemba guilty of rape, murder and pillage, and the ICC verdict condemned the widespread use of sexual violence as a means of war. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, welcomed the judgment [press release], stating the ruling “sends an important message across the world that international justice will finally prevail, even in cases where civilians with supervisory, or command, responsibility are accused of crimes committed in a country other than their own.”
The Bemba [JURIST news archive] case has been ongoing before the ICC since 2008. In September Bemba pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with the administration of justice after Bemba and four members of his legal team were ordered to stand trial [JURIST reports] on those charges. In October 2014 ICC Trial Chamber III delayed the closing statements [JURIST report] for the case against Bemba. The closing statements were delayed so that the Chamber may hear additional witness testimony after the defense requested to testify about alleged collusion between prosecution witnesses. Also that month, the ICC reviewed the detention status of four suspects motu proprio and ordered their interim release [JURIST report] in a case pending before the ICC related to the detention of Bemba. The four suspects – all citizens of the Congo – are named Aime Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidele Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido. In November 2013, four persons were arrested on charges of falsifying evidence [JURIST report] in connection with the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Bemba’s defense lawyers opened their case before the ICC in August 2012.