The United Nations rights chief today welcomed the judgement delivered by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a Congolese national found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and pillage, committed in 2002 and 2003 in the Central African Republic (CAR).
“While recognizing that the judgement delivered today in Jean-Pierre Bemba's case may be subject to appeal, it 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,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release.
Jean-Pierre Bemba was the President and commander-in-chief of a Congolese rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), when its troops were sent to CAR to help fight a coup attempt against former President Patassé in 2002 and 2003. They were accused of carrying out numerous serious crimes against civilians, including widespread sexual violence.
“Much remains to be done to ensure justice for the many other terrible crimes that have been committed in CAR since 2002, not least the large-scale violations and abuses committed over the past three years. However I hope this judgement will act as a powerful deterrent against future serious human rights violations and abuses not just in CAR, but everywhere they are committed,” Mr. Zeid underlined, adding that it should also help make perpetrators understand that many victims and their supporters will never abandon their search for justice and accountability.
The UN rights chief also stressed that through this “emblematic case,” the ICC has built on the jurisprudence, pioneered in ad hoc international tribunals such as those for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, which established criminal sanctions for people employing rape during a conflict.
“I strongly believe that verdicts like the one delivered today represent an important step towards eradicating these horrendous sexual crimes which have blighted the lives of so many women – as well as men and boys – throughout the ages, and which until very recently were carried out with almost total impunity,” he said.