Angelina Jolie Pitt hails 'landmark' conviction of warlord for militia's crimes
Actress and campaigner Angelina Jolie Pitt has welcomed the conviction of a former Congolese vice president for war crimes including murder and rape committed by members of his militia.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) judgment is a landmark i n the fight against impunity for sex crimes in conflict but Jolie Pitt said it was "shocking" that it was the first of its kind.
The unanimous conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba marked the first time the court has convicted a suspect based on his role as a military commander. It also was the court's first judgment recognising rape as a war crime and crime against humanity.
Bemba, 53, was convicted of the murder, rape and pillage committed by members of his militia in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 and will be sentenced at a later date.
Jolie Pitt, co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), said: "My thoughts and my admiration go out to the survivors and witnesses who bravely testified in this case and contributed to this landmark conviction.
"I can only imagine the reaction of victims who in their hearts probably never thought that this day would come.
"It is shocking that this conviction is the first of its kind. It is a reminder of how long it has taken us to reach this point, and how many victims have never seen justice.
"I urge the international community to build on the important legal precedent that has been established: to bring forward more cases, gather the necessary evidence and support witnesses, in order that we can collectively shatter impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war and terrorism."
The Hollywood star co-founded the PSVI with former foreign secretary Lord Hague in 2012 with the aim of tackling the culture of impunity for sexual violence committed in war zones.
The Prime Minister's special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, human rights minister Baroness Anelay, said: "I welcome the guilty verdict in this groundbreaking case. This is a milestone in prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in conflict through the international justice system.
"This is the first case before the ICC to allege that a commander is criminally responsible for abuses carried out by their troops, even if they did not order the violence. It is also the first case before the ICC to focus heavily on sexual violence and rape as a war crime and a crime against humanity.
"Although the suffering of the survivors and relatives of those abused or killed cannot be erased, today's verdict sends a powerful message that those who allow such atrocities to occur will be held accountable for their actions and that there will be no impunity."