A prosecution witness in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial has admitted that there were inconsistencies between the statements he made to prosecution investigators in 2008 and his oral testimony this week.
The witness, who completed giving evidence today, also admitted that there were some inconsistencies between his testimony in court and the information he provided on his application to participate in the trial as a victim.
During cross-examination by the defense, the witness admitted that the dates of birth of his children, which he personally wrote on the application form, were wrong. He said the dates he mentioned in court were the correct ones. Equally, ‘Witness 23’ stated that the written statement he made to Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) investigators contained inaccuracies relating to when his daughters were raped by soldiers belonging to Mr. Bemba’s armed group.
During the redirect examination, prosecution counsel Thomas Bifwoli asked the witness to explain the inconsistencies the defense had identified relating to the ages of his children and the place of birth of his brother-in-law.
“What I said to [OTP] investigators was different from what they wrote,” the witness stated.
The witness was then asked whether prosecution investigators did not read his statement back to him before he signed it.
He answered: “They reread the statement to me but I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I didn’t pay attention to the dates on which my children were raped.” He said if he had paid attention, he would have noticed the mistakes in the statement.
The witness also admitted that there was an inaccuracy in a statement he attached to his application to participate in the trial. This statement was prepared with the assistance of an employee of a nongovernmental organization in the Central African Republic (CAR). “The person who drafted this document, as I said, didn’t correctly hear what I said and this is why she mentioned 20 years of age. When I reread it, I didn’t notice it … when I have reread it [now] I see that age is not correct. “
In his testimony, ‘Witness 23’ stated that three soldiers from Mr. Bemba’s militia sodomized him in the presence of his wives and children. He also said that over a period of four days, the Congolese soldiers repeatedly raped his children and his wives. Mr. Bemba is on trial for allegedly failing to control his troops who raped, murdered, and plundered in the CAR during 2002 and 2003.
Today, defense lawyer Nkwebe Liriss asked the witness how he could have written wrong dates of birth for his children in a form that the witness admitted to completing personally.
“I can’t forget the age of my children. I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t paying attention enough to follow what was going on and that’s why I signed as such,” explained the witness. He said his children would testify at the trial and affirm that the information he provided in court was the correct one. He added, “I also stated to you that I have not received a very high level of education, there are certain things I confuse all the time.”
Earlier on Tuesday, this witness said Mr. Bemba’s fighters arrived in PK12, a suburb of the CAR’s capital Bangui, on November 7, 2002. However, Mr. Nkwebe said a military source who was personally involved in the conflict had told him that the MLC could not have conquered the neighborhood of PK12 less than two weeks after their entry into the country, that is, on November 13, 2002.