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Central African Judicial Official Testifies in Bemba Trial

Flavien Mbata, a director in the Constitutional Court of the Central African Republic (CAR), today testified in the trial of Congolese war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba. Testifying via video link from the Central African capital Bangui, the witness recounted how Mr. Bemba’s troops occupied and looted his house and presented to court documents he said the retreating troops left behind in his house.

When the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers arrived in the Bangui suburb of Point Kilomètre 12 (PK 12) on November 1, 2002, the witness and his family fled and went to live with his parents. They returned home in February 2003 after learning that the soldiers had departed, only to find their house had been looted.

“The only thing that we were able to recover is the pick-up vehicle that was recovered by my bodyguard. My own property, I was not able to recover anything. I was simply told that they had taken the property away to some unknown destination,” said Mr. Mbata.

He also testified that he found on the floor of his bedroom some documents authored by the MLC. He gave those documents to International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators. Today, prosecutors presented these documents in court. They included an information bulletin and a military training manual, both headed “Congolese Liberation Army.”

 “What was the substance of the documents?” asked prosecution lawyer Petra Kneur.

“The training manual was to be used for military training,” explained the witness, who was previously a prosecutor in Bangui. “The typed or handwritten document, at the heading it said MLC, and they were reports drafted by these militia men and [appeared] to be sent on to their superiors.” 

Asked how he knew that MLC soldiers had authored the documents, Mr. Mbata replied, “Simply because I found them in my bedroom immediately after their departure.” He said the documents were written in military style.

Ms. Kneur then questioned why he kept the documents. The witness responded, “I wanted to keep them for memories’ sake because at the time I did not think there would be a trial for those who looted my home.”

Mr. Bemba, 48, is facing three counts of war crimes (rape, murder, and pillaging) and two crimes against humanity (rape and murder) at the ICC. Prosecutors charge that he failed to stop or punish his MLC troops as they rampaged against Central African civilians. He has denied the charges.

Tomorrow morning, the trial continues to hear testimony from Mr. Mbata, who is testifying with his face visible to the public.