A witness today described how she determined that the soldiers who committed brutalities in her neighborhood were from Congolese war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s militia group. She said when these soldiers arrived in her neighborhood, they hid by the roadside, “gathered together in groups” and asked for food from area residents.
Testifying for the second full day, the 14th prosecution witness, who gave evidence under the code-name ‘Witness 119,’ stated that there were women who kept guard over goods that the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers had looted from civilians. She indicated that these women were Congolese nationals.
Asked by prosecuting lawyer Horejah Bala-Gaye about the role of these women, the witness replied that they kept watch over goods that had been looted in the neighborhood of the Boy-Rabé market, a few kilometers from Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR).
‘Witness 119’ also testified at the trial presided over by Judge Sylvia Steiner that one of the leaders of the MLC soldiers told her that then Central African president Ange-Félix Patassé had given money to Mr. Bemba. The witness did not say in open court why Mr. Patassé purportedly gave this money.
Bemba, 48, has been in detention at the ICC since July 2008. Although he was not in the CAR with the troops as they allegedly raped, murdered, and pillaged, he is on trial because prosecutors charge that he should bear responsibility for not having restrained or punished his soldiers.
According to the Rome Statute, which founded the ICC, a military commander is criminally responsible for crimes committed by forces under their effective command and control. Mr. Bemba has denied all charges against him.
Assingambi Zarambaud, a legal representative of victims participating in the trial, asked the witness whether there were no rebels belonging to General Francois Bozizé’s group in her neighborhood at the time the MLC reached the area.
“Those [Bozizé rebels] who had been hiding in my district run away,” replied the witness. According to her, the Central African soldiers who were around her neighborhood at the time MLC soldiers arrived in the area were confined to their headquarters.
‘Witness 119’ has testified that she witnessed the gang-rape of two girls by MLC soldiers. She also testified about widespread lootings that she said were carried out by Mr. Bemba’s soldiers.
Tomorrow morning the defense will start cross-examining “Witness 119.’