Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) leader Jean-Pierre Bemba had a communication center set up outside his residence, which he used to communicate with his commanders, according to evidence heard today.
‘Witness 33,’ a former insider in Mr. Bemba’s group who was being cross-examined for the second day, stated that the center was set up right outside the official residence of the accused.
Testifying with image and voice distortion, he said that during the period 2002-2003, this center was directed by a military officer going by the code name ‘Lim Lim.’
“Could it have been Lengbe?” defense lawyer Peter Haynes asked, in reference to the officer who commanded the center.
“Yes, indeed,” replied the witness.
According to the testimony of some previous prosecution witnesses, Colonel Lengbe was a Central African army officer who commanded sections of the MLC troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) as they fought alongside forces loyal to then president Ange-Félix Patassé. At the time, Mr. Patassé was faced with an armed insurgency led by his sacked army chief of staff François Bozizé and called in the support of Mr. Bemba’s forces.
Subsequent questioning of ‘Witness 33’ by the defense was conducted in closed session. It was thus not possible to establish how a Central African national could have headed the command center the witness talked about, which was supposedly located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Testimony by ‘Witness 33’ appeared to reinforce earlier evidence from prosecution witnesses who testified over the last month that Mr. Bemba maintained regular communication with his top commanders located in the CAR. In terms of the overall prosecution case, today’s evidence appeared to support the contention that Mr. Bemba was aware of the daily goings-on in the armed campaign his men were running, including the atrocities his troops were reportedly committing and that he had the means to put a stop to the brutalities but chose not to.
Mr. Bemba, a Congolese national, is charged with three war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and two crimes against humanity (murder and rape) at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). He has denied all the charges.
The defense continues to cross-examine ‘Witness 33’ tomorrow morning.