A witness testifying at the war crimes trial of Congo’s former vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba broke down in tears as he described an 8-year old girl being raped in front of her mother by rebel fighters.
The witness, whose identity is being shielded while he testifies at the International Criminal Court, said that Bemba’s troops raped the girl shortly after they arrived in his village in Central African Republic in 2002.
Prosecutors say Bemba bears responsibility for atrocities committed by members of his private militia in Central African Republic in 2002-2003 as they helped forces loyal to then-president Ange-Feliz Patasse fight rebels led by Congo’s former army chief of staff Francois Bozize.
Bemba pleaded not guilty Monday as his trial opened to charges of murder, rape and pillage. His lawyers say he had no control over his fighters once they passed into Central African Republic.
Bemba, 48, is the most senior political figure to appear before the court but his trial is significant not just because of that.
It is the first at the International Criminal Court to focus on widespread sexual crimes used as a weapon of war.
Rape of children is just one of the horrors that make up the brutal reality of war crimes.
It seems hard to believe that it has taken the World so long to even start addressing this evil.