jean-pierre-bemba.jpgFormer Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Democratic Republic of Congo goes on trial today for rapes and murders allegedly committed by his troops, in a trial set to last for months.


Bemba is charged with three counts of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity for the alleged atrocities of about 1 500 fighters of his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) between October 2002 and March 2003.


The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo told journalists that the trial is seen as a warning that leaders face prosecution for sexual violence committed by their soldiers in war.


After conquering rebel-held areas in neighbouring Central African Republic, MLC troops moved from house to house in small groups raping, pillaging and killing.francois bozize.jpg


Prosecutors say about 400 rapes were recorded in the capital, Bangui, in five months of fighting as the MLC helped then Central African President, Ange-Felix Patasse resist a coup led by Francois Bozize, who is now president.


Bemba was arrested in Brussels in May 2008 on an ICC warrant.