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Victims Suffered Health Complications After Attacks By Bemba Soldiers

The tenth prosecution witness to testify in the trial of war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba today told the court that he and his son suffered health problems after being assaulted by Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops.

On his last day of testimony, ‘Witness 42,’ who started giving evidence last Friday, stated that his vision became impaired and that his son lost use of his hands as a result of an assault by soldiers belonging to the group led by the former Congolese vice president.

“I told you that he was hit on the hands, his fingers. His nerves had been crushed, and he wasn’t able to move his hands. He wasn’t able to pick anything up,” the witness said while he was being cross-examined by defense lawyer Peter Haynes.

According to the witness, the young man, who was 24 years old at the time he was clobbered by the MLC fighters, had to undergo sessions of physiotherapy treatment at a Catholic mission clinic before he regained full use of his hands.

‘Witness 42,’ who stated that he was in his late 40s at the time of the assault, told the trial, presided over by Judge Sylvia Steiner, that he underwent a cataract operation because of injuries sustained during flogging by the MLC soldiers.

“Before that, I didn’t have any vision problems. I could read normally. It is after the blows that I received that I suffered pain in my eye. My vision started to fail, my eye would water, and I couldn’t see somebody standing opposite me, so I had to go and consult somebody.”

This witness has told the trial that his ten year old daughter was raped by two MLC fighters and that he and members of his family were beaten by Mr. Bemba’s fighters. The witness also testified that when his son tried to resist the looting of his shop by the soldiers, the MLC fighters beat him up, claiming that he was a supporter of rebels who were trying to topple the government of then Central African Republic (CAR) president Ange-Félix Patassé.

Mr. Bemba is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly failing to control his troops who committed rape, pillaging, and murder in the CAR during 2002 and 2003. The MLC soldiers, who were at the time trying to overthrow the Congolese government, were in the CAR to help Mr. Patassé to fight off a coup attempt. Mr. Bemba has denied all five charges he faces.

The trial continues on Monday with a new prosecution witness.