The 30th prosecution witness in the trial of former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba today took the stand and spoke about the organizational structure of the armed wing of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), the group the accused led.
Going by the pseudonym ‘Witness 65,’ he said the group had five brigades, each of them in charge of a specific geographical area.
“There was the Alpha brigade, the Bravo brigade, the Charlie brigade, and the Delta brigade,” said the witness.
Broadcasts of the testimony by this witness outside of the boardroom had his face and voice distorted in order to keep his identity secret. The witness spent brief moments in open court. Indeed, his subsequent questioning by prosecution lawyer Massimo Scaliotti about the brigades was conducted in closed session.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba, as commander-in-chief of the MLC is responsible for two war crimes and three crimes against humanity. They claim his responsibility stems from his failure to stop or punish his troops as they brutalized civilians during their deployment in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003. Mr. Bemba has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
The prosecution has so far called 30 of the 40 witnesses lined up to testify against Mr. Bemba. Prosecutors say most of the remaining witnesses are former MLC insiders who will provide evidence on the command structure of the operations in the CAR and also point to the linkage between Mr. Bemba and the crimes he is charged with.
According to testimony so far heard from insider witnesses, Mr. Bemba maintained regular telephone contact with his commanders in charge of the Central African operations. These witnesses have also stated that Mr. Bemba was aware of the looting, murders, and rapes his troops were committing but did not take decisive action to rein them in.
‘Witness 65’ continues giving testimony tomorrow morning.