Jean-Pierre Bemba has been found guilty of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).  Bemba was vice-president of Congo from 2003 to 2006 and was the main opponent to Joseph Kabila in the 2006 Congo presidential race.  He won majority support in western Congo in that election while eventually losing to Kabila.  He is a big fish.

The significance is that he is the first conviction by the ICC for his deemed assent to rape as a weapon of war.  He was accused of not acting to stop militia under his control from raping, murdering and pillaging, events which took place in the Central African Republic in 2002 to 2003, not in the D.R.C.

With few exceptions such as the Nuremberg Trials and for former Yugoslavia, war criminals are rarely brought to justice.  This is a hugely confirming event for the ICC which was formed in 2002. The United States has yet to ratify their participation in the ICC, primarily on the grounds that excessive zeal by political foes could unjustly threaten members of their armed forces.

It took the court two years to reach the verdict (which verifies some expressed U.S. concerns over having fair and expedient trials).  Sentencing will follow in a subsequent hearing.  Bemba is also facing an additional trial for the charge of bribing a witness in this main trial.  His conviction also rules out the chance of his running for president which some had suggested in the event he was found not guilty.