A new witness this afternoon started testifying in the war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The witness, the 28th to be called by the prosecution, goes by the pseudonym ‘Witness 33’ and began his testimony in closed session.
In her opening statement at the start of the trial last November, prosecution lawyer Petra Kneur stated that Mr. Bemba propagated a code of conduct applicable to all his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers. However, she added, ‘Witness 33’ would tell the court that “MLC soldiers were not aware of the existence and contents of the code of conduct.”
Mr. Bemba, the MLC’s commander-in-chief, is facing five charges stemming from his alleged failure to put in place measures to control or punish his rampaging troops during their sojourn in the Central African Republic (CAR). The MLC was one of the military groups that took part in the 2002–2003 armed conflict in that country. Court prosecutors allege that Mr. Bemba knew his Congolese troops were committing rapes, murders, and pillaging but took no action.
Earlier today, ‘Witness 178’ completed giving testimony. Since Monday, he has been cross-examined by the defense, with all proceedings closed to the public.
‘Witness 33’ continues to give evidence tomorrow morning.