“The judgment of the Court reaffirms that impunity will not be tolerated and sends a strong signal that commanders will be held responsible for international crimes committed by those under their authority,” the Secretary-General said in a statement.Mr. Bemba had been the commander-in-chief of the former Congolese rebel group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, as well as a vice president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the 2003-2006 transition.In a ruling issued yesterday, the ICC found him guilty on five charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and pillage, committed in 2002-2003 in neighbouring Central African Republic. More than 5,000 victims were granted the right to participate in the proceedings.The case was the first before the ICC to focus on sexual violence as a weapon of war, as well as on a senior military official whose forces carried out the atrocities – even if he had not directly ordered them to do so.In his statement, Mr. Ban called the judgement “a significant step towards bringing justice to the victims of these horrendous crimes in the Central African Republic.”He also highlighted the critical need to eradicate sexual- and gender-based violence by addressing their widespread and systematic use as a weapon of war.Mr. Ban’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, today said that the conviction of Mr. Bemba “sends a message to all that irrespective of your position in society, you will face the wrath of law.”Her office has been working with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central Africa Republic, among other countries, to eliminate the scourge of sexual violence in conflict.The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, also welcomed the landmark conviction as “a clear message that the international community will hold accountable those who fail to exercise their responsibilities as commanders to prevent and punish the use of sexual and gender-based crimes as weapons of war.”In a statement yesterday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that he hoped “this judgement will act as a powerful deterrent against future serious human rights violations and abuses not just in CAR, but everywhere they are committed.”He added that it should also help make perpetrators understand that many victims and their supporters will never abandon their search for justice and accountability.
The Church of England recommends that its churches keep their doors open outside service times as best practice. It says churches are actually more likely to be attacked when they are locked, “possibly as criminals feel they are less likely to be disturbed in a closed church than one where anyone could appear at any time”. Ecclesiastical, the largest insurer to the Church of England, also suggests that churches keep their doors open. Its advice says that “where appropriate that churches are kept open because of the positive effect that has on security”, and adds that keeping a church open during the day with proper risk assessment would not increase insurance premiums. A spokesman for the Catholic bishops in England and Wales said there was no country-wide policy about keeping church doors open, but the decision was down to each individual bishop. It is not known which diocese the Bishop of Portsmouth was visiting. In the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said: “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. “One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.”In 2015 he said at a general audience in St Peter’s Square that churches should make people feel welcome by keeping doors open. A spokeswoman for the Catholic National Mutual Limited, the main insurer for Catholic dioceses in the UK, said: “Churches are places of worship and sanctuary, and it is important that they remain open and accessible to all. “Accordingly, CNM Ltd does not interfere with or influence the opening hours of churches, nor does this have any impact on insurance premiums.”A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Westminster, another Catholic diocese, said that many of its churches in London had been forced to lock their doors following vandalism. Catholic churches should follow the Church of England to keep their doors open outside of services, the bishop of Portsmouth has said. Philip Egan complained that on a recent visit outside his diocese he had been unable to visit any churches because they had all been shut. In a Tweet posted on Sunday he said: “Why oh why?! Just spent a few days outside the Diocese but every Catholic church I tried to visit was locked. “One even had the utter hypocrisy to display a poster ‘From Maintenance to Mission’! Why is this, when every Anglican Church is welcomely open?” Why oh why?! Just spent a few days outside the Diocese but every Catholic church I tried to visit was locked. One even had the utter hypocrisy to display a poster ‘From Maintenance to Mission’! Why is this, when every Anglican Church is welcomely open?— Bishop Philip Egan (@BishopEgan) January 14, 2018 She added that protecting the sacrament was a particular concern. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. read more