ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Weapon of War

By recognising rape as a war crime, the International Criminal Court has taken an important step.

On 21 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) located in The Hague held the former vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Jean-Pierre Bemba, guilty of using rape as a weapon of war. It is the first time the ICC has convicted someone for sexual crimes. Bemba commanded the 1,000 troops who were sent into neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002–03 in an attempt to prevent a coup. In the process, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), the name by which his militia is known, pillaged, raped and murdered thousands of people over a period of five months.

The court held Bemba guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity because he did not prevent or punish his men for committing these atrocities. Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor of the ICC said, “What this decision affirms is that commanders are responsible for the acts of the forces under their control.” This judgment is seen as setting a precedent for a number of reasons. It recognises rape as a war crime and fixes responsibility on the commanders of the perpetrators of these crimes.

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