Congo Ex-Deputy Found Guilty of Bribery During War Crimes Trial

  • Former vice president jailed in June for his fighters’ crimes
  • Bemba is highest-ranking politician to be convicted by ICC

A former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president was found guilty of bribing witnesses for an International Criminal Court trial that led to his imprisonment for war crimes committed by fighters he commanded.

“The chamber finds you guilty,” presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt told Bemba Wednesday at The Hague. Bemba, who served as vice president in a transitional government from 2003 to 2006, was in June sentenced to 18 years in prison, becoming the highest-ranking politician to be convicted by the ICC.

The son of a wealthy businessmen with close ties to former Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Bemba founded and led the rebel Movement for the Liberation of Congo during Congo’s second civil war between 1998 and 2003. In 2002, he sent MLC soldiers into the Central African Republic to help President Ange-Felix Patasse put down a rebellion. While there, his troops committed the rapes, murders and pillaging in 2002 and 2003 for which he was later held accountable.

Bemba served as one of four vice presidents in the transitional government at the end of the war and remains president of the MLC, which became one of Congo’s biggest opposition parties. He was runner-up to President Joseph Kabila in the second round of 2006 elections, winning 42 percent of the vote.

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