ICC extends Congolese Bemba's time in prison over false evidence

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has sentenced the former Congolese Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, to another year in prison and about USD 325,000 (1.2 billion Shillings) in fines for interfering with his trial.

Judges ordered the that the sentence be served consecutively to Bemba's existing 18 year sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003. In their ruling, the judges ordered the fine to be paid within three months to the ICC and then transferred to the Trust Fund for Victims.

Bemba, along with four other people, was found guilty for intentionally and corruptly influencing 14 defence witnesses, and presenting their false evidence to the court."  Bemba was also found guilty of soliciting the giving of false testimony by the 14 defence witnesses and attempting to corruptly influence two defence witnesses.

These charges were in addition to the main ruling issued in March 2016, in which the ICC found Bemba guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a devastating campaign of rape, murder and torture in the Central African Republic.

The alleged acts took place between October 2002 and March 2003 when Bemba's rebels operating as the 'Mouvement de Libération du Congo' (the Movement for the Liberation of Congo) helped to put down a coup against Ange-Felix Patasse, the former president of the Central African Republic.

It was the first time the court applied the principle of command or superior responsibility to convict someone, who was far from the battleground while his militia committed its crimes. Bemba was a person effectively acting as a military commander with effective authority and control over the forces that committed the crimes.

Court heard that Bemba's men were involved in the gang rape of women and girls as young as 10, forced sons to rape their mothers in front of their fathers, raped wives in front of their husbands, and children in front of their parents. The judges found that he was culpable for having "failed to prevent" the crimes committed by his subordinates, and for doing nothing to punish the offenses.

Bemba is already serving 16 years for murder as a war crime, 16 years for murder as a crime against humanity, 18 years for rape as a war crime, 18 years of imprisonment for rape as a crime against humanity and 16 years for pillaging as a war crime.