The International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced the former Congolese Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, to 18 years of imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003.
In a ruling issued in March, the United Nations-backed ICC had found Mr. Bemba guilty beyond reasonable doubt as a military commander responsible for two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging) committed in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.
Mr. Bemba had been the commander-in-chief of the former Congolese rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, as well as a vice-president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the 2003-2006 transition.
ICC Trial Chamber III delivered the sentence today in an open hearing, where Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner read a summary of the decision.
Ms. Steiner indicated that the Chamber found the crimes of murder, rape, and pillaging to be of “serious gravity,” the ICC said in a press release.
The Chamber also found that two aggravating circumstances applied to the crime of rape: it was committed against particularly defenceless victims, and with particular cruelty.
In addition, the Chamber found that one aggravating circumstance applied to the crime of pillaging, which the majority of the Chamber considered to be the particular cruelty with which the crime was committed.
The Chamber further found that Mr. Bemba’s culpable conduct was of serious gravity. Lastly, the Chamber was satisfied that no mitigating circumstances existed in the case, the ICC said.
In light of his conviction, Mr. Bemba was sentenced to the following terms of imprisonment: 16 years of imprisonment for murder as a war crime; 16 years of imprisonment for murder as a crime against humanity; 18 years of imprisonment for rape as a war crime; 18 years of imprisonment for rape as a crime against humanity; and 16 years of imprisonment for pillaging as a war crime.
The Chamber considered that the highest sentence imposed, namely, 18 years for rape, reflected the totality of Mr. Bemba’s culpability, and decided that the sentences imposed shall run concurrently.
The entire time Mr. Bemba has spent in detention in accordance with an order of the ICC, since 24 May 2008, will be deducted from his sentence.
The ICC also noted that the prosecution and the defence may appeal the sentence on the grounds of disproportion between the crime and the sentence.
Further, the ICC said that the issue of reparations to victims under article 75 of the Rome Statute will be addressed in due course.
The ICC Trial Chamber III is composed of Ms. Steiner (Brazil), Judge Joyce Aluoch (Kenya) and Judge Kuniko Ozaki (Japan).