A witness in the Bemba trial today stated that he fled marauding Congolese soldiers and then learned that they had killed his wife. On his third day of testimony, the prosecution’s ‘witness 112’ told The Hague-based trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba that during the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), he was forced to stay away from home for three months, but when he returned he was told that his wife had been killed by soldiers belonging to Mr. Bemba’s militia.
Yesterday, ‘witness 112’ testified about his 10-day stay in a compound occupied by a group of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers, taking care of domestic chores.
Under cross-examination by Mr. Bemba’s defense lawyer today, ‘witness 112’ stated that after 10 days of doing domestic chores for MLC soldiers, he escaped after soldiers sent him to buy them cigarettes. After escaping, the witness went to Point Kilomètre 35 (PK 35) where he spent approximately three months. The witness testified that five days after he returned to his home, Francois Bozize grabbed power from president Ange-Félix Patassé in March 2003. It was then that learned that his wife had been killed.
The witness said he found his wife’s grave in N’Délé, and he believed that she had been killed in this township.
In 2002, Mr. Patassé called upon the assistance of the MLC to help him fight back a coup attempt. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court charge that during the MLC’s presence in that country between October 2002 and March 2003, the Congolese troops brutalized civilians and that Mr. Bemba as their commander-in-chief simply looked on. He has denied the charges, arguing that when he learned of his troops’ misdemeanors, he took strong sanctions against them.
The trial continues tomorrow morning with further testimony from ‘witness 112.’