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Bemba’s Defense Highlights Inconsistencies in Witness Testimony

War crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s defense today focused on inconsistencies between the oral testimony given by the prosecution witness currently testifying and the written statements she made earlier to International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution investigators.

‘Witness 110’ last week described the shooting of a woman just outside her compound, allegedly by soldiers of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). According to statements the witness made to investigators, the unidentified woman was shot on the first day that the witness saw the MLC arrive in her neighborhood in late October 2002.

However, in court today, defense lawyer Aime Kilolo-Musamba asked the witness to confirm that the alleged murder took place on October 30, 2002.

“No,” replied the witness, who testified with protective measures including voice and image distortion. She added that it was possible there was an error in the statement she made to prosecution investigators.

“Could you confirm to the Chamber when the murder of the woman who [walked] … in front of your compound occurred?” asked Mr. Kilolo-Musamba.

The witness replied, “It was the next day.”

In her testimony last week, ‘witness 110’ recounted how armed MLC men looted property from her house and that of her neighbor. She said a group of MLC soldiers arrived at her neighbor’s compound some time in October 2002 and stayed there until mid-February 2003.

She added that as one group of soldiers pillaged goods from her neighbor’s house and loaded them onto a military vehicle, other soldiers looted her own house and took “everything you can take.”

However, according to the statement the witness made to investigators in March 2009, sections of which the defense lawyer read out in court today, the witness stated that after fleeing her home, she often went back to her house to collect household items.

“How often did you go to your house?” Mr. Kilolo-Musamba asked.

“When I fled, I did not take my personal belongings with me, so from time to time we tried to go back to the house to collect clothing and other small things from the house,” replied the witness.

The defense lawyer then asked the witness why she stated that soldiers took everything from her house. She responded that besides clothing, there was “a lot of other property of value in the house” that the looters did not take.

In another extract from the statement the witness made to investigators from the court’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), she said that Mr. Bemba’s Congolese soldiers occupied her house until February 2003, but in her in-court testimony last week, she said they left her house on the same day of their arrival, that is, some time at the end of October 2002.

Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, denies that he knew his soldiers were committing murders, rapes, and looting in the CAR but failed to control them. His trial at the ICC started last November and has so far seen prosecutors call half of the 40 witnesses they have lined up to give evidence against Mr. Bemba.

‘Witness 110’ continues her testimony tomorrow morning.