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Trial Proceeds in Closed Session

Tuesday’s proceedings in the war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) were closed to the public as the accused’s defense team cross-examined an unnamed witness.

The prosecution witness known in court as ‘Witness 178’ started giving testimony last Tuesday. However, yesterday his testimony was interrupted when it was reported by presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner that he was “not in a condition to testify.”

Closed sessions are often required when there is a need to protect the identity of witnesses and their families. Additional protective measures such as voice and image distortion as well as the use of a pseudonym are also put in place to avoid witnesses being subjected to reprisal attacks for participating in the trial.

Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has denied that he was aware of and failed to take appropriate action to control rampaging Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers during the 2002-2003 armed conflict in neighboring Central African Republic. Prosecutors of the ICC charge that Mr. Bemba’s MLC troops raped, murdered and pillaged Central African civilians.

The trial is scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.