Central African Republic: Bemba Witness ‘Never Witnessed Crimes’
On the concluding day of his testimony, a witness affirmed that he never witnessed any crimes by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s fighters. However, the witness said he heard reports of pillaging by the Congolese troops but not of rape or murder.
‘Witness D04-29′ said although he heard locals talk of refrigerators and TV sets being looted by Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops, the Congolese fighters he saw retreating back to their country did not carry any looted goods.
The witness said he saw the troops about 20 kilometers from Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), as they returned home after rebels led by François Bozizé captured power in March 2003.
“Did you hear of any formal victims complaints filed against the MLC?” Marie-Edith Douzima Lawson, a lawyer representing victims in the trial, asked the witness.
“I am not aware of any complaints,” replied the witness.
Earlier, during cross-examination by the prosecution, the witness affirmed that the men who raped his wife were members of the Bozizé rebellion. In his testimony yesterday, this witness said the rebels arrived in his neighborhood on October 26, 2002. He said a group of three rebels raped his wife and two others assaulted him. He gave the details of the incident, including the perpetrators’ names, in closed session.
Prosecutors claim that Mr. Bemba had effective command and control of his troops deployed in the 2002-2003 conflict in the CAR but failed to discipline them although he knew that they were committing rape, murder, and pillaging. He denies the charges, saying it was not his fighters who committed the crimes and that it was Central African generals who commanded his troops deployed in the conflict.
The testimony of ‘Witness D04-29′ before the International Criminal Court has been heard remotely by way of video link from an undisclosed location. In order to conceal his identity, judges granted him protective measures, including image and voice distortion as well as the frequent use of private session.
Since the start of the defense case last August, the defense has called 30 witnesses. Presentation of the defense evidence is scheduled to conclude at the end of October, with the testimony of Mr. Bemba.
Hearings continue tomorrow morning with the evidence of a new witness, ‘Witness D04-30.’