A prosecution witness in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today admitted that there was an error in the application he filed to participate in the trial.
He stated in his application that his daughter, who was defiled by a soldier belonging to Mr. Bemba’s militia, was 17 years old at the time of the event when she was actually ten years old. The witness said that the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldier defiled his daughter in December 2002. His daughter was born in 1992, he said.
Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson, a legal representative of victims participating in the trial, asked ‘Witness 73’ to explain the inconsistency between his statement in 2009 and his oral testimony this week. The witness explained that when he met investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), he erroneously told them that his daughter was 17 years old at the time she was defiled.
“Where it concerns her age, 17 was a mistake. I just answered the question without hesitating or reflecting. She was born in 1992,” the witness said.
This morning’s scheduled hearing flopped after ‘Witness 73’ reported that he was feeling unwell. In his testimony in the afternoon, he stated that his ten year old daughter might have had consensual sex with the MLC soldiers. “Perhaps at that time she was consenting or she was afraid. They did have sexual relations,” he said.
The witness said that he was not sure what to make of the relationship, and he thought it was a joke when the soldier asked to marry his daughter. The witness said the soldier put this request to his wife and even proposed the dowry he was ready to pay to the family. ‘Witness 73′ said he did not give a response to the MLC soldier.
He also told the trial presided over by Judge Sylvia Steiner that he feared his daughter would contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). “She never went to hospital for such [STD] tests. Now her state of health currently is normal, but I don’t know. That [defilement] took place in 2002, now we are in 2011. She is in good health. Perhaps with time she will have a disease which will start all of a sudden,” said the witness.
According to the witness, the soldier who defiled his daughter had become a regular at his home and often sent his daughter to buy for him goods from shops in the neighborhood. Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial at the ICC over crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003. Prosecutors say these crimes included murder, rape, and pillaging. He has denied the charges.
‘Witness 73’ continues giving his evidence tomorrow morning.