International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Testimony of Last Prosecution Witness Pushed to Next Week

The testimony of the last prosecution witness in the Jean-Pierre Bemba trial will be heard from next Wednesday, not today, as had earlier been scheduled. Going by the pseudonym ‘Witness 36,’ this witness will testify via video link from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Court officials said “the witness was not available to start the testimony at the dates previously set, thus [the trial] was postponed.” They did not elaborate.

Earlier this month trial judges granted a request by prosecutors to hear the evidence of this witness through the use of video link. Prosecutors stated that testimony via video link “would prevent the inevitable pain and suffering [the witness] would endure by traveling to The Hague.” They said the witness sustained injuries last July that had affected his medical condition but gave no further details.

This witness, like the three who have testified this year, is a former insider in the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, the group led by the accused. Prosecutors have described him as “an important percipient witness” whose unavailability would deny the prosecution its right to a fair opportunity to present its case and would also deprive the chamber of evidence essential for determining the truth.

Mr. Bemba’s trial opened in November 2010, although he had been in International Criminal Court detention since July 2008. He is charged with failure to rein in his soldiers who reportedly killed, raped, and looted during their deployment in the Central African Republic.

A status conference is scheduled for next Tuesday, with the evidence of ‘Witness 36’ expected to commence on Wednesday.

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