Jean Pierre Bemba

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his sentence on 21 June 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
23 June 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The 18-year sentence the International Criminal Court handed down on Tuesday against former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba [IJT-191, blog] for murders, rapes and pillaging committed by his troops while they were fighting in neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 has received a mixed reception. Some experts like Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association told Deutsche Welle he would have “preferred a significantly longer sentence” given the severity of the crimes Bemba was convicted of. Human rights groups focused on the fact that this was the longest sentence handed down by the ICC so far and Bemba's defence pointed it out that it was significantly higher than other convictions under command responsibility by international tribunals.

Just how much is eighteen years compared to other similar cases in different courts? Justice Tribune spoke to criminologist Barbora Hola of the Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit faculty of law who studies sentencing of international crimes and has done empirical, quantitative studies of sentences at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and it's sister court for Rwanda, the ICTR.

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Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo in the ICC courtroom during the delivery of his verdict on 21 March 2016 (Photo: Flickr/ICC-CPI)
21 March 2016 by Stephanie van den Berg

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday ruled that Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba's troops raped, murdered and pillaged civilians in the Central African Republic and that he, as their commander, could be held criminally responsible. The ruling is a historic one for the ICC as it is the first time the court has handed down convictions for sexual and crimes and also a first conviction on the basis of command responsibility [IJT-191].