Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo at the ICC
Former vice-president in the transitional government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo looks on in a court room of the International Criminal Court (ICC) PETER DEJONG/AFP/Getty Images

Former Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba has been sentenced to one year in prison by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the first corruption trial in the ICC's history after being found guilty of bribing witnesses.

The 53-year-old former warlord is already serving an 18-year jail term after he was found guilty by the ICC of five charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in June last year for allowing his militia to commit mass murder, rape and pillage in the neighbouring nation of Central African Republic (CAR) between 2002 and 2003. He appealed against his conviction in September 2016.

On 22 March, Bemba was handed a one-year sentence after he found guilty of trying to influence witnesses in his war crimes trial.

Bemba's corruption trial opened on 29 September 2015.

ICC judges heard how Bemba had masterminded a witness corruption network from inside his prison cell, aided by four close associates – Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Narcisse Arido.

The group used secret phones and coded language to bribe, advise and manipulate witnesses who came to give evidence at the ICC.

Bemba's lawyer, his legal case manager, a fellow politician and a witness for the defence were convicted on 19 October 2016 of corruptly influencing 14 key defence witnesses, and presenting their false testimonial evidence to the court during Bemba's war crimes trial.

The men were found guilty of more than 100 combined charges, and face up to five years in prison, a fine or both. Bemba's one year-sentence adds to his 18-year sentence.