Botswana government has expressed its support for the conviction of former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Jean-Pierre Bemba, by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The 53-year old former Congolese rebel leader who is expected to appeal the conviction has been found guilty of war crimes in a landmark trial at The Hague.

He was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people in neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

Botswana government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation today issued a statement saying the verdict sends a strong message that impunity for crimes against humanity will not be tolerated. “It may be recalled that Mr. Bemba was convicted of two counts of crimes against humanity, involving murder and rape, as well as three counts of war crimes – murder, rape and pillaging. These were all in relation to attacks in the Central African Republic between 2002 and 2003 by troops under his command,” reads the statement.

Government further says it is its considered view that Bemba’s conviction is a strong indication of the ICC’s capability to punish and deter perpetrators of such crimes. “This is one of the main reasons why Botswana supports the work of the Court and will continue to do so.”

As State Party to the Rome Statue that established the ICC, and a supporter of the Court, government says it strongly believes that those who are responsible for the violation of the preservation and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, war crimes, mass atrocities and crimes against humanity should be held accountable for their deeds.

Bemba, will remain in custody until sentencing.

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