Below is an unofficial transcript of the Prosecution’s November 22, 2010 opening statement in the war crimes trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statement was delivered by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and Senior Trial Lawyer Petra Kneuer.
Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo:
The Prosecution will prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is criminally responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against civilians of the Central African Republic (CAR) by forces under his effective authority and control between October 2002 and March 2003.
The evidence will show that the crimes against CAR citizens were not isolated incidents. They were committed by Bemba troops in a widespread and organized manner. Small platoons were organised. Groups of three or four soldiers invaded houses, one by one. They stole all the possessions that could be carried off and raped the women, girls and elders, regardless of the age. When the civilians resisted, when they refused the rape or punishing, they were killed.
As we say, they were not isolated incidents. These were some of the main tactics of the Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops in the CAR campaign during 2002 to 2003. The goal [was] eliminating any chance of a new rebellion by destroying communities they perceived as the enemy. In accordance with article 54 (1)b, the Prosecution has to take into account the nature of the crimes, in particular when it involves sexual violence, gender violence or violence against children. All these dimensions are at the heart of the crimes committed by Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops.
The nature of the crimes committed by [the troops of] Jean-Pierre Bemba was unspeakable. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops stole from the poor people of one of the poorest countries in the world. The massive rapes were not just sexually motivated, as gender crimes, they were crimes of domination [and] humiliation directed against women but also directed against men with authority. These crimes spread terror and devastated communities by means of the cheapest weapons and most available ammunition. Women were raped systematically to assert dominance and to shatter resistance. Men were raped in public to destroy their authority, their capacity to lead.
The Prosecution is not alleging that Jean-Pierre Bemba ordered his troops to commit these crimes. The Prosecution submits that Jean-Pierre Bemba is responsible for these crimes as a result of his failure to control the troops he commanded. Jean-Pierre Bemba, the top commander of the MLC troops, gave licence for his troops to attack the civilians. He had not to prevent, not to repress, not to punish the rapes, pillage and murder campaigns implemented by his subordinates. The Prosecution will submit that as their superior, Jean-Pierre Bemba is even more responsible than the dire perpetrators, his subordinates.
A commander that lets his troops carry out such criminal tactics is a hundred times more dangerous than any single rapist. Jean-Pierre Bemba knowingly let the 1,500 armed men he commanded and controlled commit hundreds of rapes, hundreds of pillages. Command responsibility means that the commander owns the actions of his troops.
Different from a single rapist, Bemba’s weapon was not a gun; it was his army. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s body was his army. The result of his knowingly lack of control was the rape of hundreds of civilians. This trial is an opportunity. This is the first trial before the ICC that concerns command responsibility.
Like any other criminal court, this chamber will decide Jean-Pierre Bemba’s individual criminal responsibility but the preventative aspect of this trial, its forward looking aspect, has no precedent. Unlike any other court, the ICC’s decision will influence the behaviour of thousands of military commanders from 114 state parties. The ICC decision will enforce a law adopted by state parties and make a difference.
The difference between a military commander and a criminal is respect for the law. The responsibility of the superiors and the subordinates in a hierarchical organization such as an army has been discussed all over the world since ancient times. It was referred to in the famous Sun Tzu Chinese army manual dating back 500 years before Christ. It was also discussed in the Islamic law, and Hugo Grotius in 1625 referred to it in his famous The Law of War and Peace. During the 20th century the concept acquired legal gravitas. It was developed as the base of criminal liability by military tribunals at the Second World War.
Additional Protocol 1 of 1977 of the Geneva Convention refers to the responsibility of a superior. National jurisdictions also began to recognise it and the jurisprudence of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) and ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) further refined and specified it.
Finally, the Rome Statute consolidated customary international law on the topic and specified its dimension. It does not introduce a new and separate liability of a superior in international law. It was not a new crime. Rather, the Rome Statute carefully defined the responsibility as an alternative mode of liability for international offences.
The Rome statute ensures a basic principle of criminal law – the individual responsibility of a superior should be established. No one can be punished for a wrongful act unless the act is at attributable to him or her. Article 28 carefully defined when a military commander or a superior who has effective authority and control can be criminally accountable for acts and omissions in exercising his power. Article 28 only permits a finding of liability by a superior for an act of a subordinate if that act can be attributed to the superior under specific conditions.
In accordance with this principle and the Pre-Trial Chamber III’s decision confirming the charges for trial, the Prosecution will prove the elements required by the law in this specific case. The evidence will show that the charged crimes were committed by the MLC troops and Mr. Jean-Pierre Bemba was their military commander with effective authority and control over the troops who committed these crimes.
Jean-Pierre Bemba does not only command the militia called MLC. He owns it. He is the owner of the militia. He created it to gain political and economic power. He financed it and he deployed it. Jean-Pierre Bemba retained his effective authority and control over the MLC troops throughout the 2002 and 2003 military interventions in the CAR. He ordered the deployment of the troops and he ordered their withdrawal. He issued orders that were compliant with to appoint, demote, dismiss as well as arrest, detain and release MLC commanders.
The evidence will show that Jean-Pierre Bemba had the power to prevent and repress the commission of crimes by the troops. The first way to prevent and repress is by providing clear orders not to commit the crimes, in this case, widespread attacks against civilians. Jean-Pierre Bemba did no such thing.
The chamber will hear witnesses that will testify how Jean-Pierre Bemba brief his MLC troops immediately before their deployment into the Central African Republic, telling them, and I quote, Mr. Jean‐Pierre Bemba said to his troops, ʺYou are going to the Central African Republic which is not your country. In that country, there are no parents, or big brothers or little brothers, or any of your family. When you get there, do the job that Iʹm asking you to do. Anyone, anyone you encounter in the combat zone will be an enemy because I received information that the enemy is wearing civilian clothing.” His troops followed this idea.
Another witness will explain to you how the soldiers believed that Jean-Pierre Bemba gave them carte blanche. These orders clearly show a commander who knowingly desires not to prevent the commission of crimes against civilians. Indeed, Jean-Pierre Bemba gave licence to his troops to treat as enemy combatants in their homes children, women and the elderly. In the Bemba case, the failure to prevent and punish is integral to and confirms the licence he gave to his troops to attack civilians. Through the evidence presented to the court you will be able to view Bemba’s failure to educate and punish his troops in the context of his choice not to keep his troops in line respecting the law and in this way guaranteeing that the laws of war would be followed.
The evidence will show that Jean-Pierre Bemba was well aware that MLC troops were committing and were about to commit crimes. The evidence will show that Jean-Pierre Bemba was still in communication with his commanders. He received civilian complaints about his soldiers when he visited the CAR. In early November and in a published speech in CAR, Jean-Pierre Bemba recognised the existence of reports of widespread criminal activity committed by the MLC. Jean-Pierre Bemba also knows because international media put him on notice. Journalists directly informed him of these abuses.
And as the evidence will establish, Jean-Pierre Bemba never claimed ignorance. Instead, he dismissed the reports as untrue, denying them and claiming innocence on behalf of himself and his troops. Another evidence of Jean-Pierre Bemba’s knowledge is his request to the UN to investigate. He did not do any follow up but instead organized sham trials against a few soldiers for petty crimes unrelated with the offences described, aiming to cover up the crimes committed.
Madam Bensouda and Ms Kneuer will follow with the opening of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Besouda:
During the armed conflict in CAR between October 2002 and March 2003, the accused, Jean-Pierre Bemba, deployed military forces known as MLC in support of then president Angé-Felix Patassé against a coup-d’etat from rebels led by Patassé’s former army chief Bozizé’s. During this five months’ intervention, the MLC movement in the CAR was accompanied by repeated widespread and brutal rapes, murders and pillaging of civilians committed as the troops progressed into and then retreated from the CAR.
These crimes commenced when MLC forces took complete control of the targeted areas, after dislodging Bozizéʹs rebels. They continued for as long as the MLC forces remained in occupation of those areas, and they ceased immediately after MLC forces withdrew from those areas. In the upcoming months, the Prosecution will prove the following elements of the charges:
First, the crimes themselves. You will hear from the survivors and witnesses to the crimes, both Central African Republic civilians and military witnesses. Approximately 18 witnesses will testify specifically about the rapes, pillaging and murders of civilians in the Central African Republic. Their evidence will establish beyond reasonable doubt that these crimes took place; that they were knowingly and willfully committed.
The Prosecution will describe the crimes themselves in greater detail later in this opening statement. The crime pattern will show how well organized the attack against the civilian population was. The crimes were committed against civilians. The victims of these crimes, Madam President, were not soldiers. They were civilians. The accused told his soldiers in advance that they were not to distinguish between military and civilian persons.
Witness 213, a former MLC insider, will testify that Bemba briefed his MLC forces in Zongo, immediately before their deployment into the CAR. The Prosecutor recorded his statement a few moments ago. I would like to repeat it. “You are going to the CAR,” he told them. “It is not your country. In that country there are no parents or big brothers or sisters. When you get there, what I am asking you to do, anyone you encounter in the combat zones will be an enemy because I have received information that the enemy is wearing civilian clothing.”
In fact, the crimes were directed against anyone that the soldiers encountered in the combat zone in the CAR – children, persons in their homes, local government leaders, women, men and families. The crimes we committed by the Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops.
You will hear that Bemba was the founder and president of the MLC, a movement created to gain power and money. It is a movement with its own private army and Bemba is not just a leader. He was the owner and commander-in-chief of this private army consisting of approximately 20,000 soldiers. As commander of his army, he sent approximately 1,500 troops across the border from the DRC into the CAR to fight on behalf of Patassé, starting in late October 2002. Within a day or two of the MLC’s arrival after crossing the river Oubangui, within a few days, there were reports of widespread rape, pillaging and murder. As the MLC troops moved deeper into the country and overcame the opposing forces, the commission of crimes against the CAR civilian population followed their progress.
The evidence will show a clear correlation between MLC movement and the commission of rapes, of murders and pillaging. Indeed, in the locations where some of the crimes were committed, no other troops were present as the MLC had captured the locations and had sole control over these areas. But the evidence of the crimes is not dependent solely based on the crimes alone. In the CAR, people speak Sango. Civilian victims and witnesses from the CAR will testify that their attackers spoke Lingala, a language that they could recognize but one that is spoken in the DRC and not in the CAR.
Some witnesses will testify that the MLC soldiers were recognizable by their attire which distinguished them from the CAR soldiers. Other witnesses saw MLC troops crossing the Oubangui river into the DRC with their pillaged properties. These witnesses will inform the court about the steady stealing of property and then ferried the goods across the Oubangui river.
The crimes were of an armed conflict. Context of the armed conflict in CAR was widespread and highly organized. They were not confined to a single location. They occurred wherever the MLC soldiers progressed and they had the official blessing of the MLC hierarchy. So soldiers raped civilians in front of their MLC commanders, looted goods were stored on the MLC bases, sometimes at the residence of MLC commanders and together with their commanders, MLC soldiers organized the transportation of these pillaged items into the DRC.
Senior Trial Lawyer Petra Kneuer:
The evidence will show that Jean‐Pierre Bemba is criminally responsible under Article 28(a) of the Rome Statute. First, he was the commander-in-chief and had effective authority and control. Under existing traditional command structures, Mr. Bemba in fact maintained the troops as subordinate to him. The defense may perhaps claim that Jean-Pierre Bemba did not have authority and control. The MLC commander of the operations in the CAR would not agree unless the accused expressly consented. In addition, Patassé had no control over their activities of the battlefield. Jean-Pierre Bemba had knowledge of the crimes.
The accused visited his troops in Bangui in early November 2002 and in a public speech acknowledged the reports of widespread criminal activities. He also had in place a systematic reporting mechanism under which he received regular reports of the MLC activities and operations in the CAR 2002 – 2003. Bemba was in constant and direct contact with the military commanders via various communication devices such as radio, walkie talkies, satellite phones and facsimile machines.
The international media also heavily reported on the crimes in the CAR. The evidence will show that Radio France International, BBC, Voice of America, for example, extensively broadcasted MLC’s troops abuses, especially rapes and pillaging. Journalists also directly informed the accused of these abuses. Further, as the evidence will establish, Bemba never claimed ignorance. He instead dismissed the reports as untrue, claiming innocence on behalf of himself and his troops.
Jean-Pierre Bemba had the capacity to prevent, repress or punish. He failed to do anything. The accused had a structure in place to prevent this or punish. The evidence will show that he failed not because of incapacity but because he did not want to take serious actions. Bemba propagated a code of conduct for the MLC which was applicable to all MLC soldiers and military disciplines but witnesses 33, 36 and 45 will tell this court that MLC soldiers were not aware of the existence and the content of code of conduct. The code was not properly disseminated in the MLC movement. In fact, it was inaccessible to most of the MLC soldiers because it was written in French and not Lingala, the language of the MLC army.
The accused chose not to disseminate the code, not to train his soldiers in respect of the life and property of civilians. Particularly, in advance of military engagement the accused failed to pay due regard to law in his operational decision making during the 2002-2003 CAR military operation. He failed to issue clear and effective orders to ensure crimes were not committed. To the contrary, when Bemba instructed his troops immediately prior to the CAR deployment, he did not remind them of the laws of war. Instead, he knowingly told them that anyone in the CAR will be an enemy, that the enemy is wearing civilian clothing, that they were not to distinguish between civilians and combatants and that they should view them as the same.
After the crimes were committed, the evidence will further show that Bemba was to be seen as caring, as wanting to act. But the Court will see that the steps he took were in fact a sham. He heard complaints early in November 2002 from residents of Bangui of the crimes committed by his troops and in response, he professed concerns and willingness to act but he did nothing. He did not follow up, he did not conduct training and he did not demand serious investigations.
Moreover, Jean-Pierre Bemba established a military judicial system within the MLC. The MLC had a disciplinary board that conducted hearings and issued punishments for breaches of the code, except for among other things, murder, theft and rape which were referred to a court martial. Bemba used his powers to issue various military decrees which included ensuring the implementation of sanctions issued by the disciplinary board. The accused controlled this judicial system and personally appointed the military judges. Bemba had the ability to unilaterally request discipline, arrest, investigate and prosecute MLC soldiers.
After evidence was presented by NGOs and the media, Bemba purported to convene an investigative commission in December 2002 which resulted in court martial proceedings. But the commission’s actions were irrelevant in relation to the crimes committed and their scale. Only a handful of persons were charged. No civilian victims in the CAR were called as witnesses. And the offenders convicted of petty theft were not seriously punished. The trials were concluded in December 2002. None of the soldiers was tried for rape.
Witness 45 will describe MLC’s trial proceedings generally. He will tell the court that the trials were a sham. As an illustration, he referred to the MLC trial regarding crimes against civilians in Mambasa in the DRC. In that case too, the crimes were limited to insubordination, attempted extortion and robbery. The sentences delivered were disproportionately low but even with that, as witness 45 will tell the court, some of the MLC commanders were even promoted shortly after and the accused pardoned the convicted MLC commanders.
Even more telling is, you will hear from witness 45 that Bemba informed MLC soldiers prior to the commencement of the trial, that it was a show trial designated to satisfy the demands of the international community. The fallacious justice efforts signaled, in addition to knowledge of the allegations, that the accused had the capacity to prevent, repress and punish. They also signaled that Bemba would not exercise that capacity and that the serious crimes were not to be prevented, repressed or punished.
By his invocation of justice, the evidence will show that Bemba only covered up MLC crimes. The evidence will also show that after a couple of months of criminality, the accused referred the matter to the UN representative but took no further steps, provided no information to the representative and washed his hands of the matter. The UN acknowledged receipt and wrote to the accused indicating its availability to assist. Despite Bemba’s acknowledgement of receipt of this letter, he did not provide information or follow up on the UN’s offer to assist with investigations. This reflects again, the capacity to take steps and the failure to do so effectively.
Thus, the evidence in this case will establish that Bemba as commander-in-chief of the MLC sent approximately 1,500 soldiers in civilian areas of the CAR with express and implied knowledge to ignore any crimes against civilians. He made no efforts to train his troops on the law of war and acceptable law of practice of soldiers. He ignored or discounted specific complaints about serious crimes committed by his soldiers. He made no efforts to punish or refer the matter to appropriate authorities. The evidence, in short, will show that Bemba as commander-in-chief of the MLC is criminally responsible by his affirmative decisions and failures for thousands of serious crimes committed against innocent civilian non-combatants. This in a nutshell is the case that the Prosecution will present.
The Prosecution anticipates that it will call as witnesses 18 persons who were victimized or witnessed the victimization of others. It will call 13 insiders to testify about the activities of the MLC, and an expert to testify about military command structure and command responsibility. The Prosecution will also present five overview witnesses who shall provide evidence on the elements of the crimes charged. Additionally, three more experts will testify on rape as a weapon of war, its impact on civilians in the CAR and provide linguistic expertise.
The Prosecution will now explain in greater detail who the accused is, how he organized his MLC and why he sent his troops into the CAR in 2002-2003 to assist the then president Patassé. The Prosecution will describe in greater detail the crimes and explain why those crimes of the gravest nature committed with his knowledge, under and his command require prosecution before the ICC. The Prosecution will explain the MLC structure and how that structure and his decision that his troops would commit crimes with impunity made him responsible for his troops’ actions.
Who is the accused? Jean-Pierre Bemba is the son of Jeannot Bemba Saolana, a close Confidant of the former president of the DRC Mobutu Sese Seko. Bemba’s father was one of the most powerful figures in the Mobutu regime and an enormously wealthy businessman. During the Mobutu regime, Bemba’s family was closely related to the government. In May 1997, however, Mobutu’s government was overthrown. In 1998, one year later, the accused established a private militia, the ALC in opposition to the new government led by the then president Laurent Desire Kabila. In 1999 Bemba transformed his private militia into a hierarchically organized movement with a political and military wing – the MLC which he based in the Equateur province, an area rich in mineral resources, in particular gold.
The MLC was formalized through the adoption of a statute that specifically conferred enormous power on Bemba himself. The accused became by statute both the president and commander-in-chief of the MLC. As of 13th July 2002, Bemba awarded himself the rank of general. As supreme commander of the MLC, the statute neither contemplates Bemba’s removal nor his replacement. Witness 213, an insider who had been with Bemba since he established the MLC, stated, “Bemba started a rebel movement for his own interests, not to liberate the DRC but for himself.” His statement further said, “I understand Bemba because I lived with him for a number of years when we were at war. He did not give a damn. I am telling you this so you understand how Bemba operates. That’s when I realised that the man was a gold digger. It was then that I understood that this man would let us die here. He was not thinking about our supplies, he was sacrificing us.”
Bemba structured the military wing of the MLC along conventional army lines. He was the top commander, the MLC had a hierarchically organized military structure similar to other structures found in conventional armies. The MLC was made up of soldiers from several ethnic groups from the DRC including an ethnic group called Banyamulenge. That group is significant. The evidence will show that many victims identified their attackers as Banyamulenge. And you will also hear witnesses describe generically the attackers as Banyamulenge. Notably, the evidence will show the impressive organizational capabilities of this private militia. Within 24 hours of Patasse’s request, and I repeat, within only 24 hours, Bemba mobilized, equipped and deployed two battalions from the DRC across the border to the CAR. Bemba ordered the deployment of Poudrier B Battalion and 28th Battalion and appointed General Moustapha Mukiza as commander for the CAR operations. Upon receiving orders from the accused, the MLC soldiers moved quickly and efficiently across the international border formed by the Oubangui river. Since there were no bridges, the two battalions floated across by boat, bringing with them enough weapons and ammunitions to sustain them in combat for days.
Why did the MLC end up being deployed to the CAR? Bemba sent his troops there to help the then president of that county. As previously mentioned, then president Patassé faced the rebellion led by his army chief of staff Francois Bozizé. Bozizé whose base of support lay in and around Bangui led his forces to Bangui in an effort to un-sit Patassé. In response, Patassé mobilized CAR national army, known as the Force Armée Centrafricaines, or FACA, and other forces including the Unité de Securité Presidentielle, or USP, to launch a counter‐offensive. To strengthen the counter offensive, Patassé asked Bemba to assist in defending him. The MLC was superior in military strength to the FACA, in personnel numbers as well as in weaponry. In addition, as Patassé would later explain, he could not trust his own army to defend him which is why he called his “son” Jean-Pierre Bemba to assist him.
Why did the accused intervene on Patassé’s behalf? Because his control of Equateur required that CAR remain in the hands of friendly troops. Its political and economic survival depended in large on security guarantees from that government. Bemba’s military and political base in Equateur shares a border with the CAR and the CAR capital, Bangui, lies just across the river from Equateur province. For strategic reasons, Bemba needed to secure the alliance of the CAR to deter potential attacks from the DRC government that otherwise might come at him from the CAR.
In 1998, the MLC faced an unexpected attack from former DRC president Laurent Kabila who had secured transit rights form the CAR government in order to attack Bemba’s MLC troops from the rear. This incident motivated Bemba to forge a strong alliance with Patassé so as to maintain control of and secure their shared border. The accused also needed the CAR to continue receiving supplies in Equateur province in DRC through the CAR, including overland and by air through Bangui airport.
Bemba also used Bangui as a secure route for his travel abroad. Because Bemba needed an ally in the CAR to sustain his own power, he forged a personal and close political relationship with the then president. He and Patassé exchanged visits. Bemba referred to Patassé as his father and Patassé referred to Bemba as his son. And Bemba viewed any threat to Patasse’s political survival as a threat to his own political survival. It is against this background that the accused twice intervened in the CAR, first in 2001 and again in October 2002 when Patasse’s presidency was under threat. And because Bemba needed Patasse’s presence to sustain his own power, his assistance on Patasse’s behalf exceeded that of a military force to uproot military resistance. He also directed the MLC to target the civilian population to punish them for their perceived support for rebels and to discourage further rebel efforts.
There was a strategic objective to these crimes. The evidence will show that the crimes committed by the MLC troops were not incidental. It was permitted as military tactic. Finally, this case is about crimes – wide spread, organized and brutal crimes – crimes committed against the CAR civilian population. The MLC attacks against civilians were widespread. In all the locations in which they deployed MLC troops, targeted CAR civilians on a large scale committing rapes, murder and pillaging. These locations included Bangui, Fou, Boy‐Rabé, Gabongo, PK12, PK13, PK22, Damara, Sibut, Bossembélé, Bossemptelé, Bozoum, Bossangoa and Mongoumba.
(Shows a Slide of a computerized map of the CAR.) The map illustrates the locations in which MLC soldiers committed crimes against civilians, the types of crimes that they committed as well as the dates of commission of these crimes. MLC troops were in total control of these areas. The only force operating in those areas at times indicated on the map. The evidence will be clear: MLC troops were the direct perpetrators of the crimes.
The attacks by the MLC soldiers against civilians in the CAR also followed this same pattern and were typically conducted in an organized manner. They targeted former rebel held territories. The evidence will show that MLC troops used a door to door system of attack in Bangui, PK12, Mongoumba and other former rebel-held areas. MLC forces organized themselves into small groups of around four soldiers for the purpose of going from house to house to rape, pillage and kill civilians in captured localities.
As for the crimes themselves, you will hear many witnesses and victims talk about rapes. And those rapes were horrific. MLC forces used rape as a military tactic. The evidence will show that MLC forces engaged in gang rapes as well as repeated multiple rapes perpetrated by different groups of MLC soldiers against the same victims on a given day. They committed rape any way, any time against any women, girls or elderly people as well as against men with authority. They did it at night, or in broad daylight. In homes, in compounds, on the streets, in the fields, in public and in private. They raped civilians in the presence of MLC commanders, and as witness 87 will testify, MLC commanders themselves even actively participated in these rapes.
Multiple witnesses will tell the court about the variety of ways in which MLC troops raped them. Single, multiple and repeated rapes. The aggravating circumstances of the rapes and the targeted nature of the rapes.
The message behind these rapes was particularly evident from MLC’s targeted and selective raping of men, men in positions of authority, community leaders and protectors of the communities. They specifically searched for community leaders who they raped in front of their family or in public. These community leaders lost their standing and pride in the community. Some of them were deserted by their wives because of the shame and humiliation caused by the MLC rapes. When civilians were raped, family members were forced to watch at gun point.
The evidence of witness 23 provides a clear illustration. Witness 23, a father, a husband and a community leader, identified himself to the MLC soldiers as the representative of his village. They replied, “Right, you are exactly the kind of person we are looking for. Because you protect the rebels.” Targeting him specifically, they raped him publicly and in private in front of his family. Afterwards, MLC soldiers then raped his wife in his presence. His daughter – a minor – was also raped after which she passed out. This evidence will demonstrate the nature, gravity and severity of MLC troop attacks against civilians.
The evidence will also establish a destructive pattern of pillaging that, like rape, was a key feature of the MLC operations in the CAR. Pillaging was also widespread and executed systematically. The MLC took advantage of the CAR conflict in 2002–2003 as an opportunity for MLC soldiers to acquire material gain and to enrich the MLC rebel group as a whole. In a highly organized manner, MLC troops pillaged civilian possessions in every location in which they were deployed. They pillaged civilians’ possessions – furniture, mattresses, electronic equipment and other appliances, cars, etc.
They pillaged in broad daylight without impunity. They pillaged in the presence of MLC commanders who also participated in and directed the pillaging. Pillaging was well organized, in a manner which reflects its employment as an organizational policy of the MLC. MLC forces established storage facilities including the few commanders’ houses as well as their army bases for housing pillaged items.
Together with their commanders, the MLC pillagers organized the transportation of their stolen items to the DRC. MLC forces drove vehicles, overloaded with pillaged items to the DRC. Bemba then distributed pillaged vehicles from the DRC among senior MLC military personnel in Gbadolite, DRC. The accused did not stop the pillaging. In fact, you will also hear how Bemba ordered his military soldiers to launch a retaliatory attack on Mongoumba because the CAR forces protecting their nationals had prevented MLC soldiers from transporting pillaged items to the DRC. Bemba’s conduct approved and institutionalized pillaging among MLC forces. It emboldened his subordinates to engage in and distribute items pillaged from the CAR civilians.
Lastly, the evidence will establish that MLC forces murdered civilians. These killings also followed a pattern. They killed civilians who resisted rape, physical violence and pillaging. They killed them sometimes as part of a single attack or as a series of attacks. The murder of civilians was widespread. MLC forces engaged in mass killings of civilians in different locations in which they were deployed in the CAR. They killed civilians indiscriminately. Witness 209 will describe for the court how MLC troops beheaded civilians and displayed their heads along main roads. Witness 6 will testify about two mass graves containing remains of civilians killed by the MLC soldiers. Other victims and witnesses will also testify about MLC killings of civilians in various locations in the CAR.
At the end of the case, the Prosecution will have proven all of the crimes committed against civilians by the MLC forces under the effective authority and control of the accused, Jean-Pierre Bemba.
The evidence will establish all the elements for the court to find that Bemba failed to provide clear orders to his troops not to attack civilians; failed to train his soldiers in international and humanitarian law; failed to set up a reporting and enforcement mechanism to monitor and prevent crimes; sent them in as unpaid armed troops who could be expected to pillage; tolerated the crimes and dismissed the public reports; failed to investigate and punish; issued a retaliatory strike against CAR forces who interfered with the MLC’s commissions of crimes; and finally rewarded his troops for the crimes. As a result of this failure, thousands of civilians were victimized and traumatized in the most cruel manner by the MLC’s lawless criminality. Based on this evidence, the Prosecution will ask the court to find Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the charges.
Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda:
This is the Prosecution’s case that will prove Jean-Pierre Bemba’s responsibility for the crimes alleged. In conclusion, we come back to where we started. These are the most serious crimes committed against innocent civilians by the troops under Bemba’s control. Bemba’s decision to send those troops to commit crimes against civilians, his failure to live up to the responsibility as a commander is criminal. The Prosecution recalls statements made by the defense in previous submissions to the court, that criminal liability based on command responsibility is not significant. It does not show personal culpability, it is at most negligent. But this dismissal of the seriousness of the charges is contrary to the Rome statute, a statute which punishes commanders because of the grave harm that they can cause by their failure to require that their troops act lawfully by their tolerance of criminality. The dismissal of this personal, moral liability is also contrary to the facts that will be proven in this case.
The evidence will show that Bemba chose to not exercise proper command authority and control over his soldiers. He chose to not prevent the crimes because these crimes furthered his goals. The merciless and relentless pillaging impressed upon the civilians in the affected region that they must pay a great financial price for Bozizé’s rebellion. The vicious rapes of men and women, of children, of the elderly, of pregnant women, rapes committed forcibly in the presence of victims’ families or in public were not for personal sexual pleasure; they were designed to dominate and to humiliate, to destroy people, families and communities. The murders of people who resisted, who refused to submit to the victimization, show their powerlessness. Together, the crimes would weaken the ability or the determination of the people to support a future action against Patassé.
Bemba is not being charged with crimes because somebody must be held accountable and that years after the events the Prosecution can not identify the soldiers who personally committed the rapes, the pillaging or the murders. Bemba is here because he sent his troops in with a license to violate the laws of war and destroy civilian communities. He is here because he instructed his troops not to distinguish between civilians and combatants. He is here because he did not train his troops either in advance or after he was told of their crimes. He is here because he did not ensure that his subordinate commanders controlled the troops. He is here because commanders have at their disposal hundreds and thousands of soldiers whose capacity to commit grave crimes is unquestioned. He, like other commanders, had a duty under the Rome Statute to take steps so that his soldiers would not commit these grave crimes. He is here because of the victims, because they deserve justice.
The Prosecution is acting in the name of the CAR victims, those who died and those who survived, those who are plagued by memories of the horrors and those who are HIV infected. We are also presenting this case in the name of citizens from 114 state parties to the Rome statute which have committed to supporting this court in prosecuting crimes which shock the conscience of humanity.
This is a difficult case to present, a difficult case to hear. The Prosecution will rely on witnesses who have been victims and have taken courage to come forward. Not only have they been raped and violated, subjected to degrading and humiliating treatment, but the very crimes committed against them have made them outcasts in their own community. As a continuing legacy of those crimes, many continue to be deprived in some instances of family life and community support. Some are sick with AIDS. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s victims were discriminated against to show their powerlessness, abused in horrible ways by his soldiers and cast aside. He let it happen, he did nothing. This trial will recognize their suffering and empower them. Transforming their accounts of rape and their experiences of violation into evidence that will allow Jean-Pierre Bemba to be held responsible for what he did.
But this trial, this provision of international justice, is not just a means to recognize the crimes they endured. It will empower them. Their painful experiences of rape and humiliation will become evidence against Jean-Pierre Bemba. The judicial process will now follow its course. The Prosecution hopes that the whole of the international community beyond this court room will also play its part for the victims. They need attention, they need medical treatment and they need assistance now.
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, your Honors.