Statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on the conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba by the International Criminal Court


UN Women welcomes the landmark conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 21 March 2016, for his failure to prevent and punish the rape, murder and pillage committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003. In an historic step toward accountability for conflict-related sexual violence, the judges unanimously found the former rebel-turned-opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The case against Mr. Bemba was significant because, for the first time, the Prosecutor at the ICC brought charges against a defendant that focused heavily on gender-based crimes, including rape as both a crime against humanity and as a war crime. The conviction is also notable because it is the first time that the ICC has found a defendant guilty of crimes committed by his subordinates, based on Mr. Bemba’s command responsibility for his troops. Finally, the trial included an unprecedented number of victims—more than 5,000 victims were granted the right to participate in the proceedings.

The conviction sends a clear message that the international community will hold accountable those who fail to exercise their responsibilities as commanders to prevent and punish the use of sexual and gender-based crimes as weapons of war. UN Women acknowledges the commitment of Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and her Office to end impunity for sexual violence in conflict. We will continue to support the pursuit of gender justice at the Court to ensure that the Rome Statute is used to bring perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence to justice and deter future crimes.

UN Women also extends its profound appreciation of the brave survivors of sexual violence for their participation in the trial, and their testimony against Mr. Bemba. The ICC’s judgment should be followed by a comprehensive reparations decision, which supports the survivors of sexual violence in the CAR in their efforts to rebuild their lives and to end gender inequality in their communities.