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Bemba Trial Delayed Due to ‘Logistical Issues’

The Bemba trial, which went on recess in early December, will only resume on Monday, January 30, after what court officials described as “logistical issues” made it impossible for the next scheduled witness to start his testimony.

Hearings that had been planned to resume on Monday last week were pushed to this week, before being postponed twice to January 30. Court officials today said that the prosecution witness lined up to testify next could not start his testimony “due to logistical issues.” They declined to reveal what these issues were.

The upcoming witness, like the three who will follow him before the prosecution case closes, is a former insider in the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), the group war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba led. These witnesses, prosecutors say, will testify that Mr. Bemba knew his troops were committing rapes, murders, and pillaging in the Central African Republic and that he had the means to stop and to punish them but chose not to.

Before the trial went on recess, prosecutors told judges that they were at the time unable to bring any of the four outstanding witnesses to testify.

They said the witnesses had commitments that made it impossible for them to travel to The Hague until later this month. After failing to produce any of the four outstanding insider witnesses in the witness stand, prosecutors last November called ‘Witness 69,’ an overview witness they had planned to have as their last witness, to give testimony.

Mr. Bemba refutes that he had direct command over his soldiers but failed to effectively control them as they brutalized civilians in the CAR during their deployment in the country between October 2002 and March 2003.

Prosecutors charge that he is criminally responsible for three war crimes (murder, rape, and pillaging) and two crimes against humanity (murder and rape) stemming from his troops’ misconduct. He denies the charges.