The war crimes trial of the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo gets underway in The Hague on Monday.
Ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is being prosecuted for alleged rapes, murders and lootings committed by his troops in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.
Prosecutors say the case will have a huge deterrent effect, as it is the first time the International Criminal Court has judged a commander’s responsibility.
Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said:
“I always say that one of the most important impacts of the ICC is that armies all over the world are adjusting the rules to the legal standards, and this case will strengthen this idea. A commander should be, is responsible, for what his troops are doing.”
The alleged atrocities happened after Bemba’s rebel forces crossed the Obangi river to help the Central African Republic’s president and put down coup attempts.
Bemba, who was arrested in Brussels two years ago, is the most high profile figure to be prosecuted by the permanent court.