International Criminal Court (ICC) judges have authorized five victims to provide evidence in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba. Two of the victims shall provide oral testimony in court, while three will express their views in person, through means yet to be determined by judges.
Prosecutors have suggested that victims authorized to present their views and concerns could do so either in writing or via video link.
There are 2,287 victims participating in the trial of Mr. Bemba, who is accused of failing to stop or to punish his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers. MLC troops are accused of perpetuating rapes, killings, and looting. The crimes were allegedly committed during 2002 and 2003.
Initially, lawyers representing victims submitted a list of 17 victims they wanted to testify. However, judges directed them to reduce the number to no more than eight applicants. Victims’ lawyers subsequently submitted statements from seven victims.
Because of new biometric passport procedures in the Central African Republic (CAR), the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) will require two months to arrange for the victims who will testify to travel to The Hague. Judges have directed that the victims should appear in court as of April 23, 2012.
As described by judges, the following are the victims who will provide evidence through in-court testimony:
1. Victim a/0866/10: A victim of pillage and repeated rape in Mongoumba, including gang rape, by a group of MLC soldiers. She also witnessed several instances of pillage and two instances of murder in various locations.
2. Victim a/1317/10: A victim of pillage. He could provide information about murder, rape, and pillage committed by the MLC. Furthermore, he witnessed the alleged visit of Mr. Bemba in Sibut town.
The following are victims authorized to express their views and concerns in person:
1. Victim a/0542/08: A victim of pillage and rape by MLC soldiers in Bossangoa, but prosecutors said evidence she could provide would be cumulative of evidence another victim could present and would therefore not substantially assist the chamber in determining the truth. Victim a/0542/08 was authorized to express her views and concerns in person.
2. Victim a/0394/08: A victim of pillage in Damara, and he could provide indirect evidence in relation to the crimes of murder and rape.
3. Victim a/0511/08: Was injured by a gunshot fired by MLC soldiers, and he was an eyewitness to the murder of his mother.
The applications of two victims were rejected. Their statements were either found to contain information “not relevant” to the charges, or it was deemed that their evidence was not representative of a large number of victims.
One of these victims said she was raped and abducted from Bossembele to Bossangoa and forced to accompany the Bemba soldiers to Congo. Most of the events narrated by this victim occurred after the period over which the crimes Mr. Bemba is on trial were allegedly committed. The second victim, a gunshot survivor in the Bangui suburb of Point Kilomètre 12 (PK 12), said he witnessed the rape of his neighbor’s wife.
In the trial at the ICC of Congolese political leader Thomas Lubanga, three victims testified at the bidding of their lawyers. Both the Lubanga and Bemba trials have individuals who have the dual status of witness and victim. In Mr. Bemba’s trial, there are 15 dual-status individuals.
The trial is scheduled to resume next week to hear the evidence of the last prosecution witness.