The landmark conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba by the International Criminal Court of Pierre Bemba marks two important firsts in the fight to end impunity for perpetrators of rape in war. One, it is the first time that the ICC has convicted a defendant of sexual violence in conflict. Two, it did so for someone charged not for actions on the battlefield, but rather for failing to prevent these actions and to doing nothing when it was clear they had. The potential repercussions of this decision cannot be overstated as it means that future perpetrators at the highest level must now consider whether they want to risk a successful prosecution.
For the rest of us - this conviction gives us encouragement to continue on the long road of advocacy in honor of all of those impacted by sexual violence in conflict. As Marlise Simons wrote today in the New York Times wrote, "Largely because of pressure from human rights advocates and women’s groups, organized or mass rape is increasingly being recognized and prosecuted as a weapon of war, not as a byproduct of it."