Bemba in dock for war crimes

THE HAGUE - A war crimes trial begins today for the most senior political figure in the custody of the International Criminal Court.

He is Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is being held to account for the mass rape and murder of civilians by his followers in the neighbouring Central African Republic.

The trial is only the third to get under way at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It also is the first to focus on charging a military leader for crimes committed by his troops and on the use of widespread rape as a weapon of war.

Prosecutors say Bemba allowed his personal militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, to run amok in 2002 and 2003.