A prosecution witness in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday expressed surprise when the defense produced a copy of her medical certificate, which she purportedly submitted while applying to participate in the trial. The witness said she did not submit the certificate because she had lost it.
Equally, she stated that the hand-written account of her rape ordeal that was appended to her application was not written by her. She said she had not seen either the certificate or the handwritten account before the defense showed them to her today.
Continuing her testimony from Tuesday, ‘Witness 68’ stated that after her rape by two soldiers belonging to Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), she visited the nongovernmental organization Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) for a medical examination. She said the exam showed that she had HIV/AIDS and another sexually transmitted infection.
Subsequently, she met with investigators of the court’s Office of The Prosecutor (OTP), who asked her for the medical certificate showing the results of the exam. She said she was unable to produce the certificate as she had lost it, and the doctor who examined her told her that he did not have the original certificate.
However, defense lawyer Peter Haynes today presented a medical certificate and a handwritten account of what happened to the witness, both of which he said were from her application to participate as a victim in Mr. Bemba’s trial.
“This certificate that is attached to the [handwritten] document you know nothing about [it]. So somebody appears to have written down your account and found or manufactured another copy of this certificate to attach to it. Would that be right?” asked Mr. Haynes.
“I know nothing about that. I don’t know how these documents ended up here,” replied the witness.
“If there is a victim’s application form in your name, you did not fill it in. Is that correct?” continued Mr. Haynes.
“I said to the prosecution officials whom I worked with that I had given my testimony orally. I didn’t use a pen to write anything. I gave my testimony orally, not with a pen, not with a pencil,” she answered.
The witness, who testified with face and voice distortion, did not say in open court when she went for the medical test at MSF. However, she stated that she met the prosecution investigators during 2005. She gave much of her testimony in closed session.
The witness testified that besides the OTP officials, she only shared her story with two other people. These were her lawyer and an official of a Central African nongovernmental organization that worked with rape survivors. She gave the name of the organization as OCODEFAD (L’Organisation pour la Compassion et le Développement des Familles en Détresse). The witness said that Bernadette Sayo, a cabinet minister in the current government of the Central African Republic (CAR), was the executive director of OCODEFAD.
Mr. Bemba is on trial at the ICC for failing to stop or to punish his MLC soldiers, who carried out widespread rapes, murders, and plunder in the CAR during 2002 and 2003. His troops were in the country to help its then president Ange-Félix Patassé beat back a coup attempt led by Francois Bozizé.
Defense lawyers later showed the witness a map of the city of Bangui and asked her to pinpoint the presidential palace and the neighborhood in which she was assaulted on October 27, 2002. Mr. Haynes then stated that the witness was raped in an area that was under the control of Bozizé’s rebels. He added that no soldiers of the MLC entered the CAR until October 30, 2002.
‘Witness 68’ completed her testimony, and a new witness will commence giving evidence on Friday.