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BEMBA TRIAL RESUMES IN JANUARY

Former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will resume on January 11, 2011, judges announced last Friday. 

The early break in the trial came because the witnesses that the prosecution had scheduled ahead of the winter recess have completed their testimony. The winter recess begins on December 17 and ends on January 4. Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner stated that during the course of the recess, judges would deal with “only matters of real urgency.”

Three witnesses have testified since the trial started on November 22. The first described how he mobilized citizens to resist Mr. Bemba’s Movement for Congolese Liberation (MLC) troops as they committed atrocities against civilians in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).

The second witness, a counseling psychologist, described the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patterns among survivors of sexual violence perpetuated by the MLC soldiers. The third witness described her personal ordeal at the hands of the Congolese soldiers who gang-raped her and stole her family’s property.

Mr. Bemba, 48, has been charged with failing to stop or to punish his fighters who pillaged, raped, and murdered civilians in the CAR during 2002 and 2003. Prosecutors have lined up 40 witnesses to give evidence against he accused, who was himself not in the Central African Republic but who prosecutors claim is criminally responsible for the acts of his troops.

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