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ICC convicts Congolese politician of war crimes

The International Criminal Court has convicted Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba of war crimes and crimes against humanity this week. The court held him responsible for a devastating campaign of rape, murder and torture in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. 

The three-judge panel convicted Mr Bemba of murder and pillaging, and defined the large-scale rape by his soldiers as a crime against humanity and as a war crime.

Other international courts, including the United Nations tribunals for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, have issued convictions for rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity — but Monday was the first time the International Criminal Court, in The Hague, had done so, the New York Times reported.

"The conviction of Mr Bemba — who was far from the battleground while his militia committed its crimes — was noteworthy in a second respect: It was the first time the court had applied the principle of command or superior responsibility. The judges found that Mr. Bemba was culpable for having 'failed to prevent' the crimes committed by his subordinates, and for doing nothing to punish the offenses," the NYT commented.