Jean-Pierre Bemba’s defense today started its cross-examination of the 34th prosecution witness in his war crimes trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). All questioning of the witness was conducted in closed session.
Going by the pseudonym ‘Witness 213,’ prosecutors have said this individual was formerly an insider in the accused’s militia group. In their opening statement, prosecutors added that ‘Witness 213’ personally knew and lived with Mr. Bemba for some years.
Mr. Bemba, 48, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) opposition group, has been on trial since last November.
Prosecutors at the ICC charge that ill-trained members of the armed wing of the MLC brutalized Central Africans during their intervention in that country’s conflict in 2002 and 2003. Mr. Bemba is being charged for allegedly failing to control his fighters. He denies the charges.
Earlier this week, ‘Witness 213’ testified that Mr. Bemba had a communication center a few meters from his residence from which operators received daily reports via radio about operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003.
He also testified that MLC brigades and battalions stationed in the conflict country were equipped with radio handsets through which they sent and received reports between the frontline and Congo. He said Mr. Bemba had “his own radio” at his residence as well as another located at the militia’s operations office “10 meters” from his residence.
The cross-examination of ‘Witness 213’ is scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.