Hammer week: UN judges find Bemba, Karadzic guilty, but three big African war criminals still at large

Uganda rebel chief Kony, Rwanda genocide mastermind Kabugo, and Sudan’s president Bashir continue to elude international justice

WAR crimes judges have been very busy the last week. They found former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However others, including three major African suspects, are still on the run.

The judges Monday found Bemba guilty of a deliberate campaign of widespread rapes and killings by his private army in Central African Republic over a decade ago.

In a landmark verdict, the judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Bemba guilty on five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying he had retained “effective command and control” over the forces sent in to CAR to quell an attempted coup against the then president.

It was the first case before the ICC to focus on sexual violence as a weapon of war, as well as to find a military commander to blame for the atrocities carried out by his forces even though he did not order them.

The judges dismissed Bemba’s defence that his Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) had come under the control of CAR’s hierarchy, saying he “had knowledge” of what was happening on the ground, and failed to stop it.

MLC troops went into CAR in October 2002 to help put down an attempted coup against then president Ange-Felix Patasse.

Over the next six months, some 1,500 of his troops went on a rampage of killings, rapes and pillage in villages in DRC’s northern neighbour.

Bemba will be sentenced at a later date and could face up to 30 years in jail—or even a life sentence, if the court considers that it is “justified by the extreme gravity of the crime”.

After the events in CAR, Bemba, a wealthy businessman-turned-warlord, went on to become one of four vice presidents in the transitional government of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila.

In 2006, he lost to Kabila in a presidential poll. He fled the next year into what he called “forced exile” in Europe after his troops were routed by government forces, and was arrested in Brussels in 2008 and handed over to the ICC.

Three days later on Thursday, Karadzic was also found guilty Thursday of genocide and sentenced to 40 years in jail over the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.  Karadzic

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia judges said Karadzic, the most high-profile figure convicted over the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart, bore criminal responsibility for murder and persecution during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict.

Judge O-Gon Kwon pronounced Karadzic guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and nine other charges including extermination, deportations and hostage-taking in a verdict issued more than two decades after he was first indicted.

In what will be a blow to thousands of victims, Karadzic was acquitted of a second count of genocide.

The court in The Hague said it did not have enough evidence to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that genocide had been committed in seven Bosnian towns and villages over two decades ago.

After former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died while on trial in 2006, the last high-ranking official of the top leadership to face judgement will be notorious Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, “The Butcher of Bosnia” whose verdict is due next year.

Karadzic was the final case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The tribunal is one of a series of international courts created to address the legacies of large-scale human rights violations, push back against impunity and hold individuals accountable. The list includes the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, hybrid courts like the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Tribunal for Cambodia, and the Hague-based ICC, with its universal jurisdiction.

At times controversial, they mark a shift towards a global framework of international human rights norms.

But first you must catch your killer. Below are three major African fugitives – charged with crimes of chilling proportions – that are yet to face justice.


 Kony (Photo/AFP)

The leader of Uganda’s notorious Lord’s Resistance Army may not be the world’s greatest mass murderer, but the sheer horror of his crimes means he tops the list.

His rebel band is notorious for the massacres of civilians, the brutalisation and forced recruitment of children, sexual enslavement, mutilations and calculated terror.

 Kony grew out of the chaos of northern Uganda in the late 1980s. A self-styled messenger of God and spirit medium, he claimed to be fighting to turn the country into a theocracy, and in the process “purify” his own Acholi people.

Kony was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on 21 counts of war crimes and 12 counts of crimes against humanity.

Ever-elusive and a master of the bush, he is believed to keep on the move in a triangle of remote territory between South Sudan, the DRC and CAR.

He is being hunted by the Ugandan army, backed by a small team of US special forces.


 Kabuga. (Photo/File).

A Rwandan businessman, accused of bankrolling and participating in the Rwandan genocide.

He was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1998. Kabuga was expelled from Switzerland in 1994, and spent some time in the DRC before sheltering in Kenya, where he is believed to be protected by senior figures in the former regime of President Daniel arap Moi.

A reported attempt by US investigators to apprehend him in 2003 led to the murder of their Kenyan informant.

 In 2009 a Kenyan court froze his assets, and a legal appeal against the ruling bought by his wife was rejected in 2015.

Kabuga, 81, bankrolled RTLMC, the radio station that spewed hate against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda.

  The broadcasts helped to prepare   the ground for the genocide in which 800,000 people were killed. He was also   one of the country’s main importer of machetes, with which much of the slaughter   was carried out.


 Bashir. (Photo/AFP).

The Sudanese president is the only sitting   head of state with outstanding arrest warrants from the ICC. 

He was initially charged with seven counts of crimes against   humanity and war crimes. In 2010, three counts of genocide were added. The   accusations stem from the conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. 

  Al-Bashir is accused of masterminding a campaign, waged by Sudanese forces   and Janjaweed militia, “to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and   Zaghawa groups, on account of their ethnicity”. 

An estimated 200,000 to   400,000 died in the government’s scorched-earth response to rebellion in   Darfur by local groups challenging their marginalization.

  Some legal experts argue the ethnic cleansing   charges will be hard to prove, and the ICC may have overreached. But that is   moot, as Al-Bashir does not appear about to be detained anytime soon. The   African Union, League of Arab States, Non-Aligned Movement, and the   governments of Russia and China are backing Al-Bashir. 

His international   travel plans are only occasionally inconvenienced – most recently when he was   hustled out of South Africa last year by the government when a local court   demanded his arrest.

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