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Bangui Resident Saw Bemba’s Soldiers Kill Local Woman

A new prosecution witness in the trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today recounted how armed men belonging to the accused’s militia looted property from her house and that of her neighbor.

She also described the shooting of a woman just outside of her compound. The witness said this woman appeared to have lost her way around the neighborhood, and when she walked past the Mr. Bemba’s soldiers they summoned her. The witness said the unidentified woman attempted to run away, and the soldiers shot her dead.

Testifying with face and image distortion, ‘witness 110’ said that a group of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers arrived at her neighbor’s compound some time in October 2002 and stayed there until mid February 2003.

The witness said, “When they entered the compound, they started looting property and taking it away.” The items pillaged from her neighbor’s house were loaded onto a military vehicle and carted away. The witness said that while one group of MLC soldiers pillaged her neighbor’s house, another looted the house of the witness.

“How long did the Banyamulenge [Congolese soldiers] stay in your house?” asked prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson.

“They stayed inside the house for enough time to loot everything, destroy the windows, and commit other violent acts,” replied the witness.

The witness, who had fled with her children when the MLC arrived, said she later returned to her house and found that “they had taken everything you can take.”

‘Witness 110’  testified that other houses in her neighborhood were looted too. Local shoe shiners living at Point Kilomètre 12 (PK 12), a suburb of the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui, played a scouting role by “pointing out houses belonging to major figures in the community so that those houses could be looted.”

Prosecutors at the ICC charge that Mr. Bemba failed to stop or punish his MLC troops as they raped, murdered, and pillaged in the CAR between October 2002 and March 2003. While acknowledging that his troops went to neighboring CAR to help the country’s then president Ange-Félix Patassé stave off a coup attempt, Mr. Bemba has denied all charges against him. He argues that once the MLC left Congo, they were no longer under his control but that of Mr. Patassé.

Tomorrow morning, ‘witness 110’ is due to be questioned by lawyers representing victims participating in the trial.