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“Bemba case is ground-breaking for more than one reason” – Solange Mouthaan

The closing and oral statements in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo are taking place this week at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he is charged with crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

It is a judgement that has ground-breaking potential for more than one reason, says Solange Mouthaan, Associate Professor at The University of Warwick’s School of Law.

An expert on legal protection of minorities and the effective protection of individuals through the International Criminal Court, she said: “Most importantly, this is the first hearing before the ICC to place crimes of sexual violence against women, men and children, used as a “tool” to terrorise the civilian population, at the forefront of the case.

“As a consequence, the judgment could potentially become a landmark decision for the prosecution of gender-based crimes. The presence of an all-female bench is therefore also noteworthy, because it puts women at the forefront of decision-making in a trial focussed on gender-based offences.

“Finally, this is the first case before the ICC of a high level accused for command responsibility for crimes committed by subordinates. As military commander he had effective authority and control of the MLC troops and he failed to control or punish in order to prevent these crimes from taking place.”

The prosecution focuses on atrocities, in particular murder, pillage and rape, committed in the 2002-2003 coup in CAR by Bemba then vice-president of the DRC, but also the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC).

The ICC, the first permanent criminal tribunal to try international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes has charged Bemba with two counts of crimes against humanity (murder and rape) and three counts of war crimes (murder, rape and pillaging).

To speak to Solange Mouthaan contact Lee Page, Communications Manager at The University of Warwick. Tel: +44 (0)2476 574 255. Mob: +44 (0)7920 531 221. Email: l.page@warwick.ac.uk.