Congolese ex-rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has been jailed for 18 years following a landmark conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and sexual violence.
Bemba was found guilty in March of crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.
He was accused of failing to stop his rebels from killing and raping people.
Bemba’s defence team have already said they will appeal against the decision.
Passing sentence at the ICC in The Hague, Judge Sylvia Steiner said Bemba had failed to exercise control over his private militia group sent into CAR, where they carried out “sadistic” rapes, murders and pillaging of “particular cruelty”.
Bemba had sent more than 1,000 fighters to the CAR to help former president Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.
Who is Jean-Pierre Bemba?
- 1998: Helped by Uganda to form MLC rebel group
- 2003: Becomes vice-president under peace deal
- 2006: Loses run-off election to President Joseph Kabila but gets most votes in western DR Congo, including Kinshasa
- 2007: Flees to Belgium after clashes in Kinshasa
- 2008: Arrested in Brussels and handed over to ICC
- 2010: Trial begins
- 2016: Found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity
The court heard that his troops committed acts of extreme violence against civilians, crimes which the judge said Jean-Pierre Bemba was made aware of but did nothing to stop.
Bemba’s conviction was the first time the ICC has focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted over crimes committed by others under his command.
He had led the MLC rebel group during DR Congo’s brutal civil war and after a 2003 peace deal he laid down his arms and joined an interim government, becoming vice-president.
The BBC’s Anna Holligan in The Hague says the eight years Bemba has already spent in custody will be deducted from his sentence.