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Witness Blames Bemba’s Militia For Bangui Killings

A witness today stated that she saw several corpses of civilians in the streets of the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR) at the end of 2002, but she did not know who had carried out the killings.

Testifying for the second day in Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), ‘Witness 80’ said it was likely the killings were the handiwork of militia from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MCL), who were in the country at the time to help the CAR government fight back a coup attempt.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Nkwebe Liriss, the witness said that as she fled fighting around her neighborhood in the suburb of PK 12 to the PK 22 suburb, she saw “bodies on the ground.” She said most of those killed were wearing civilian clothes.

The witness stated that she did not witness any killings, but she was aware that at the time of these killings the MLC were fighting rebels who were trying to topple the country’s president. The witness testified with voice and face distortion and gave most of her evidence in closed session.

“Is it a supposition on your part that the Banyamulenge [MLC soldiers] killed those people? It is not something you observed?” asked Mr. Nkwebe.

“But these [MLC] were the enemies,” answered the witness. “They came and they were against us so it is only them who were responsible for those killings.”

Yesterday, ‘Witness 80’ recounted how she, her four children, and her husband were subjected to multiple rapes by MLC soldiers. Among her daughters who were raped were an 11 year old and a 14 year old.

At the opening of the trial last November, Senior Trial Lawyer Petra Kneur claimed evidence would show that MLC soldiers systematically murdered civilians. “They killed civilians who resisted rape, physical violence, and pillaging. They killed them sometimes as part of a single attack or as a series of attacks,” she said. According to her, the murders of civilians were widespread and indiscriminate.

The defense will tomorrow continue cross-examining ‘Witness 80.’