War crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s lawyer today told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about the exhumation of the body of a Central African man, who was allegedly shot by soldiers from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).
According to the attorney, the body was exhumed by agents of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at the ICC. A sister to the man whose body was reportedly exhumed has been giving evidence this week, and it was during her cross-examination that defense attorney Nick Kaufman referred to the exhumation.
The witness, who used a pseudonym as well as face and voice distortion to protect her identity, said MLC soldiers raped her and then shot her brother dead in November 2002. However, the defense disputed her account of how her brother was killed and even suggested that his killers were not members of MLC, the group Mr. Bemba led.
In her previous statement, ‘witness 87’ said her brother’s body had bullet wounds on the chest and the back. In court today, the witness was given a diagram of a human body and asked to pinpoint the exact location of the wounds. She responded that she could not recall exactly where the wounds were.
Mr. Kaufman then said, “You know they came to your house to exhume your brother, people from the OTP or [those acting] on behalf of them.”
The witness replied, “Yes, I know that some people came to exhume my brother’s body.” She also confirmed that representatives of the OTP also took saliva swabs from her and other members of her family to carry out test DNA tests. Subsequent questioning about the exhumation was conducted in closed session.
The Rome Statute, which formed the ICC, obliges member states to cooperate with the court’s investigations and prosecutions in, among other areas, “the examination of places or sites, including the exhumation and examination of grave sites.”
Hearings resume on Monday, January 17, with the evidence of the fifth prosecution witness.