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Congolese ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has been jailed for 18 years following a landmark conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and sexual violence.

Bemba, a former vice-president of DR Congo, was convicted in March of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003.

He was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people.

Bemba’s lawyers have already said they will appeal against his conviction.

Judges announced sentences of between 16 and 18 years for five counts of rape, murder and pillaging, with the jail terms running concurrently. The eight years Bemba has already spent in custody will be deducted from his term.

His conviction was the first time the ICC had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command.

Passing sentence at the ICC in The Hague, Judge Sylvia Steiner said Bemba had failed to exercise control over his private militia sent into CAR, where they carried out “sadistic” rapes, murders and pillaging of “particular cruelty”.

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, who is in The Hague, says two key issues remain – where Bemba will serve his sentence and the amount of compensation to be awarded to his victims.


Who is Jean-Pierre Bemba?

Jean-Pierre Bemba image www.crimefiles.net

  • A well-connected businessman and the son of prominent Congolese businessman Bemba Saolona
  • 1998: Helped by Uganda to form MLC rebel group in Democratic Republic of Congo
  • 2003: Becomes vice-president under peace deal
  • 2006: Loses run-off election to President Joseph Kabila but gets most votes in western DR Congo, including Kinshasa
  • 2007: Flees to Belgium after clashes in Kinshasa
  • 2008: Arrested in Brussels and handed over to ICC
  • 2010: Trial begins
  • 2016: Found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity

Profile: Jean-Pierre Bemba

More about DR Congo


Bemba was “extremely disappointed” with the sentence, his lawyer, Kate Gibson, told AFP news agency.

“Today’s sentence is by no means the end of the road for Mr Bemba, it merely signals that we are now moving to the next phase of the process which is the appeal,” she said.

In 2002 Bemba had sent more than 1,000 fighters to the CAR to help then president Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.

The court heard that his troops committed acts of extreme violence against civilians – crimes which the judge said Bemba was made aware of but did nothing to stop.

He had led the MLC (Movement for the Liberation of Congo) rebel group during DR Congo’s brutal civil war and after a 2003 peace deal he laid down his arms and joined an interim government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the sentence offered “a measure of justice” for the victims.

“Other commanders should take notice that they, too, can be held accountable for rapes and other serious abuses committed by troops under their control,” said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, HRW’s international justice advocacy director.

The MLC is now a major opposition party in DR Congo and Secretary General Eve Bazaiba criticised the ICC ruling and sentence.

“We will never cease denouncing the selective justice of the ICC,” she told supporters in the capital Kinshasa.

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WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES: militant group Islamic State in Iraq  promoting and celebrating their conquests, as they ravage Iraqi cities.

Police have issued an arrest warrant for Khaled Sharrouf image www.crtimefiles.net

Police have issued an arrest warrant for Khaled Sharrouf

Federal police have issued arrest warrants for two Sydney men accused of fighting with terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar recently posted images from Iraq on Twitter, showing them posing with the heads of executed fighters, holding guns and standing over bloodied bodies.

In other online posts, they threatened to kill Australian soldiers and all non-Muslims

beheading-Mohamed Elomar.image www.crimefiles.net

The picture in question of Mohamed Elomar.

However, a friend of the pair told Fairfax Media they have no intention of ever returning.

“They say they’ve never lived a better life than what they’re living now and ‘you don’t know what youse are missing out on, especially with the turn of events happening now [with the establishment of a caliphate in Iraq],” said the friend, who didn’t want to be identified.

“People say they’re worried these guys will come back but they understand that if they leave the country to go to Syria or Iraq they’re not coming back. They’re after two things – victory for Islam or martyrdom.”

syria-bodies of victims killed by jihadists image www.crimefiles.net

Bodies of handcuffed and blindfolded dead men lie on the ground of the Aleppo headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after they were allegedly executed by the al-Qaeda-linked group, in the northern city of Aleppo (AFP Photo / Zakariya Al-Kafi)

Mohammed Elomar’s latest twitter post reveals that he may have briefly stopped being in direct conflict.

The Attorney-General emphasised that home-grown terrorism remains a significant domestic threat.

He will seek to introduce legislation to parliament to make it an offence to encourage terrorism.

“One thing no one should think is that this is a problem on the other side of the world,” said Brandis. “This is a problem that exists and germinates within our suburbs.”

syria-men crucified by islamists extremests image www.crimefiles.net

The bodies of two men who were allegedly crucified by fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. (AFP Photo / HO / Syrian Observatory of Human Rights)

It is believed Sharrouf and Elomar left Australia last year to fight in Syria and crossed over to Iraq when conflict broke out.

Last week, they posted photos of themselves holding up the severed heads of fighters.

It followed a series of graphic and provocative photos from the Iraqi battlefield and various threats of violence.

It’s believed Sharrouf and Elomar are fighting with al-Qaeda-linked rebel group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is classified in Australia as a a terrorist organisation.

syria-THE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS BY ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS image www.crimefiles.net

Rebel fighters gather near the bodies of the victims of an alleged suicide bombing carried by al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) near the headquarters of the Army of the Mujahideen (AFP Photo / Zakariya Al-Kafi)

Elomar’s Sydney wife and the mother of his four children, Fatima, was recently charged with supporting terrorism under foreign incursion laws.

Police have issued an arrest warrant for Khaled Sharrouf. Photo: Supplied

Attorney-General George Brandis described the Australians who have joined ISIL as the biggest threat to Australian national security.

“What they have demonstrated is a promotion of violent crimes, probably war crimes,” Attorney-General George Brandis told the ABC’s 7:30.  

A spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police said the pair would be arrested immediately for terrorism-related offences if they returned to Australia.

She was allegedly stopped at Sydney Airport on May 3 with cash and military fatigues.

Her lawyer, Zali Burrows, said on Tuesday that the arrest warrants for terrorism were not a surprise, considering Elomar’s wife had already been charged with supporting a terrorist.

She cast serious doubt on the veracity of the Twitter posts, saying Elomar did not use the social network. She believes the photo of Elomar with severed heads may have been photoshopped.

An AFP spokeswoman said: “As these matters are ongoing, and yet to be tested before a court, it would not be appropriate for the AFP to comment further,” the spokeswoman said.

“Should Sharrouf or Elomar return to Australia, these warrants authorise law enforcement to arrest them immediately.”

“We would be alleging that they were members of a terrorist organisation.”

With Eryk Bagshaw

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