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Witness Did Not Know What Bemba Told His Commander

At the conclusion of his evidence today, the 23rd witness called by the prosecution in the war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba said although the accused made regular telephone calls to his commander in the Central African Republic (CAR) town of Begua, he did not know what the two discussed. 

Today, ‘witness 112,’ who earlier in his testimony stated that the accused regularly telephoned one of his commanders deployed in the CAR, conceded that he only spent brief moments of the day in the presence of the unnamed commander.

“I was in the compound. I did not have access to the house,” said the witness, who testified with image and voice distortion and gave the bulk of his evidence in closed session.

According to the witness, this commander maintained daily contact with Mr. Bemba. He said the commander often took telephone calls on the veranda of the house that the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) had forcefully occupied.

‘Witness 112’ went on to state that he did not know the content of the telephone conversations and only came to know that it was Mr. Bemba on the other end of the line through a man referred to in court as Mr. M.

“Did you know who he [the commander] was talking to every time he talked on the telephone?” asked defense lawyer Peter Haynes.

“M had already stated a long time ago that he [the commander] was talking to their [MLC] boss,” replied the witness.

International Criminal Court prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba, a Congolese national, is criminally responsible for the murder, rape, and pillaging allegedly committed by his MLC soldiers, who during 2002 and 2003 were in the CAR to help the country’s then president fight off a coup attempt.

‘Witness 112’ first took the stand on Tuesday this week. He said a group of MLC soldiers arrived at the home in the Central African town of Begua where he worked as a guard, assaulted him, looted property, and occupied the house for three months. The witness said he stayed with the MLC soldiers for 10 days during their occupation of the house, taking care of domestic chores.

Hearings resume on Monday, June 27.