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Witness Says She Expects Compensation

A witness told the judges of the Bemba trial on Friday that she expects compensation for the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers.

‘Witness 81’, who completed her testimony today, stated during cross-examination that the nongovernmental organization that helped rape survivors to fill applications forms to participate in the trial mentioned that victims might get compensation.

This organization was identified by the witness as OCODEFAD (L’Organisation pour la Compassion et le Développement des Familles en Détresse). It was founded by Bernadette Sayo, a cabinet minister in the current government of the Central African Republic (CAR).

“After the atrocities we had been the victims of, we told ourselves [in meetings at OCODEFAD] that once the perpetrators had been identified, it was necessary for them to compensate for the acts of violence committed against individuals,” she said.

In response to the explanation given by the witness, defense attorney Peter Haynes remarked that compensation in trials heard by the court depends on what an individual lost and the merit of what was suffered. The witness responded that she was not aware of this.

“Witness 81’ said in her testimony that she was raped by four MLC soldiers one week after she gave birth. She also said soldiers stole household property from their home. The witness testified with face and voice distortion and gave most of her evidence in closed session.

Mr. Haynes said the witness had mentioned the names of the men who raped her and asked whether she learnt those names during the course of the rape or at a later stage. She replied that it was after, although she could not recall whether it was on the day of the attack or not.

Victims participating in trials at the International Criminal court (ICC) can ask for reparations, compensation, restitution, or any other form of reparation for the damage suffered. If an accused person is not convicted, there are no reparations procedures against him or her. While reparations should be paid by the individual convicted, if this person has no financial resources, then the court uses the Trust Fund for Victims to provide awards for reparations to victims.

Seven witnesses have so far testified in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo who is being tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for failing to stop or punish his soldiers as they rampaged in the CAR. The crimes were allegedly committed in 2002 and 2003.

The trial resumes on Monday.

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