A witness who testified that he witnessed former Congolese vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers gang-raping women today admitted that there were inconsistencies between the statements he made to prosecution investigators in 2008 and his oral testimony in court.
The witness, who completed giving his testimony in Mr. Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), gave most of his evidence in private session.
During cross examination by defense lawyer Peter Haynes, Cyprien-Francis Ossibouyen was presented with extracts of his statement, and he admitted that the first incident of the alleged MLC brutalities took place at a different time of day than he had mentioned earlier.
“I stand by what they [statements] say. If they say they [MLC] arrived at 1900, that is what happened,” he said.
Last week, under questioning by the prosecution, the witness testified that 22 armed soldiers arrived with eight females at the ferry he used to transport them between the Central African Republic (CAR) and Congo. The Congolese allegedly treated the Central African women “like animals.” The witness said last week that this incident took place “in the afternoon” while the sun was still up.
Also last week, Mr. Ossibouyen told the trial that a second incident of gang-rape took place at night on the premises of a Central African naval base. The witness, also known as ‘Witness 47,’ said that a group of between 25 and 30 MLC soldiers raped 12 women.
However, in the statement made to prosecution investigators, which Mr. Haynes read out in court, the witness said the incident involved 50 Congolese militia and 22 women.
“Should we disregard what you said and adopt what is in the statement?” asked the defense counsel.
“I stand by what I said [in the statement],” replied the witness.
In his previous in-court testimony, these two rape incidents are what Mr. Ossibouyen witnessed in the 19 day period he purportedly ferried Mr. Bemba’s troops across the Oubangui River. But this afternoon the witness revised the incidents to three.
“I am confirming the fact that it was three. I did not say 10 or 20,” he said.
Mr. Ossibouyen attributed the inconsistencies to exhaustion and translation errors.
Contrary to what ICC prosecutors claim, Mr. Bemba denies that he had knowledge of his soldiers committing murders, rapes and looting in the CAR and chose not to control them. His trial at the ICC is nearing a year now, with 32 out of 40 witnesses for the prosecution heard so far.
A new witness is scheduled to start testifying tomorrow afternoon.