A pretrial chamber of the International Criminal Court, or ICC, is conducting hearings this week to decide whether former Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba will stand trial at The Hague. In May 2008, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bemba on three counts of crimes against humanity and five counts of war crimes; the charges relate to the period between 2002 and 2003 when Ange-Felix Patasse, then president of the Central African Republic, or CAR, asked Bemba and his rebel group, the Congolese Liberation Movement, to put down coup attempts in the CAR.
The Court has presented evidence from its case against Bemba, and deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda previewed graphic testimony on Bemba’s use of systematic rape as weapon against civilians suspected of supporting rebels against former President Patasse:
Bemba wanted to traumatize and terrorize the civilian population so they would not support the rebels…He chose rape as his method.
Prosecutor Bensouda said the prosecution “intended to focus its case on sexual violence as a weapon of war.” We hope that this case will further shed light on the scourge of sexual violence that continues to plague Bemba’s native country, Congo.
Over at the Wronging Rights blog, find their usual biting analysis of the Bemba proceedings. The International Center for Transitional Justice, or ICTJ, also has some excellent resources on Bemba’s trial and on the significance of the trial in the context of international justice and the rebuilding of post-conflict societies in Africa. Finally, the very cool and informative IntLawGrrls blog just finished a three-part preview series on Bemba’s hearing, which is highly recommended. And if you want an up-close view of the proceedings, you can also watch the ICC’s live stream from the Hague.
Meanwhile, another indicted Congolese war criminal, Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda, says he “will go to the Hague when it is the right time.” We’ll believe it when we see it.