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ICC prosecutors call for Bemba to face 25 years in prison

Former Congolese vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba to be sentenced "to at least 25 years" in prison for a slew of rapes and murders in the Central African Republic over a decade ago.

"The sentence recommended by the prosecution ... should not be less than 25 years of imprisonment," chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the court in The Hague.

Such a sentence would be justified by "the gravity of the offences committed by M Bemba and his degree of culpability".

Bemba who sat stony-faced at the end of three days of hearings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), as prosecution lawyers rejected his defence team’s calls for a lesser jail term.

After a lengthy trial which opened in November 2010, the judges in March found Bemba guilty of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The three judges agreed with the prosecution that Bemba had retained "effective command and control" over 1500 men he sent into the CAR to quell an attempted coup against the then president.

His Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) carried out a brutal series of rapes and murders in a campaign of terror, which experts testified would have long-term traumatic effects on the CAR people for generations.

Bemba’s defence team had called for a jail term not exceeding 12 to 14 years.

The crimes in the CAR happened between October 2002 and March 2003. After the conflict, Bemba, a wealthy businessman-turned-warlord, became one of four vice-presidents in President Joseph Kabila’s transitional government.He lost to Kabila in a presidential poll of 2006 and letter fled to Europe and in 2008 arrested in Belgium.

The sentence will be handed down at a later date.


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