For Immediate Release
The International Criminal Court (ICC) today sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 18 years in prison for rape, pillage, and murder carried out by troops under his command in the Central African Republic from 2002 to 2003. This March, Bemba was the first person to be convicted at the ICC for rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity.
“Today’s sentencing marks a critical turning point for the thousands of women, children, and men who were victims of Bemba’s orchestrated campaign of rape and murder,” said Karen Naimer, director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). “The punishment meted out today can’t turn back the clock, but it can bring a measure of closure to those victims who’ve waited patiently more than a dozen years for this day to come.
The Bemba conviction was the ICC’s first verdict to recognize rape as a weapon of war and to employ the doctrine of command responsibility: that leaders are accountable for the crimes of their subordinates. The case is also historic because a record number of civilian victims – more than 5,200 – participated in the proceedings and may now be eligible for reparations.
“The Court’s responsibility to the victims does not end with a conviction and sentencing,” said PHR’s Naimer. “The ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims must now issue meaningful reparations to all those who are eligible for such relief. The Court must step up to acknowledge these victims; doing any less would be a disservice to their suffering and their courage.”
PHR launched the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, a multi-year training and advocacy initiative in 2011, with the aim of forging coalitions among regional medical, law enforcement, and legal experts in Central and East Africa. PHR’s goal is to dramatically increase local capacity for the collection of court-admissible evidence of sexual violence to support prosecutions for these crimes.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.