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Witness Describes Contact With ICC Prosecution Investigators

A witness, who has testified that he was flogged because of allegations that his son was a rebel supporter and that his 10 year old daughter was raped by war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s soldiers, today stated that International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution investigators did not take statements from any of his family members.

“They did not ask me [to interview them], and I could not go and bring the children on my own volition,” the witness said today.

‘Witness 42,’ whose testimony started last week, has told the trial about the entry of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops into Bangui, the capital of his home country, the Central African Republic (CAR). He also described the MLC soldiers who were in Bangui as “unpaid and uneducated peasants,” but also stated that Mr. Bemba reprimanded his forces when he heard that they were committing atrocities against civilians.

Today, the witness stated that investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) contacted his neighbor via a mobile phone owned by the witness to arrange an interview with the neighbor. The witness said he did not know the details of the interview between the OTP investigators and his neighbor.

“They asked me questions only about myself. It was myself who, during my statement, informed them that my neighbors had been eye witnesses to what had happened to me,” said the witness.

“Why didn’t you put the investigators in contact with your wife, your son, or your daughter?” asked defense lawyer Peter Haynes.

“I could not compel them to ask them to go and call my children. It was up to them to ask me to go and call for my daughter to tell her story,” replied the witness. ‘Witness 42’ added that if the investigators had asked him to produce his son, who was also tortured by MLC fighters, he would have been happy to get the young man to talk to OTP agents.

Yesterday, ‘Witness 42’ told the trial presided over by Judge Sylvia Steiner that unknown assailants last week attacked his son using an axe. The witness today said that he had since been informed that his son was recovering from the assault.

Mr. Bemba, a former Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is on trial at the ICC over his alleged failure to rein in his troops who raped, murdered, and looted during their 2002-2003 campaign in the CAR. The troops were in the country at the invitation of then president Ange-Félix Patassé, who sought assistance to beat off a coup attempt.

The witness testified using a pseudonym and also had face and voice distortion to protect his identity.

The trial continues tomorrow with the cross-examination of ‘Witness 42.’