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Prosecutors Challenge Report of Geopolitical Expert

Prosecutors have challenged the sources that defense geopolitical expert Octave Dioba relied on in writing his report, which concludes that the intervention by Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops in a conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) was “legitimate”.

Most of the cross-examination of the expert was conducted in closed session. In open court, Mr. Dioba stated that in addition to the sources listed in his report, he reviewed literature, as well as documents given to him by the defense. He also conducted interviews with various individuals, who he did not name in open court.

The geopolitical expert wrote a 20 page report at the behest of the defense, analyzing the political and strategic aspects of the intervention by the Movement for the Liberation (MLC) in the 2002-2003 armed conflict.

Since taking the witness stand on Monday, Mr. Dioba has stated that as part of the 1999 Lusaka power-sharing agreement between Congolese rebel groups and the national government in Kinshasa, the MLC obtained a legal obligation to protect Congo’s northern border. He said another rebel group, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), took control of the eastern border with Rwanda.

The expert has told the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that this military obligation conferred on the MLC also necessitated that Mr. Bemba’s troops assist then Central African president, Ange-Félix Patassé, to fight off a coup attempt. This, he explained, was because the CAR and Congo were among the states grouped under the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) that had entered a mutual defense agreement.

Today, prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson asked the expert why he had, in his report, made conclusions on the legitimacy of the intervention by the accused’s militia yet nobody had asked him to.

“The task was to analyze, in an overall way, the intervention of the MLC in the CAR. As an expert, you are not limited in your methodological or analytical tools nor your approach,” responded Mr. Dioba.

Mr. Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo and commander-in-chief of the MLC, stands accused of taking no action as his fighters allegedly brutalized Central African civilians. He has denied two war crimes (murder and rape) and three crimes against humanity (murder, rape, and pillaging).

Judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Kuniko Ozaki, and Joyce Aluoch last month rejected an application by prosecutors to exclude testimony by Mr. Dioba. The judges ruled that his proposed testimony was relevant to the charges against Mr. Bemba and that “his knowledge, experience and training” would help the chamber to understand the background and context of the intervention by the accused’s militia in the conflict.

Prosecutors had contested the testimony of this expert on the ground that it was “either not relevant to the issues of the case or, when arguably relevant, not properly the subject of expert testimony.” They further challenged his expertise and proposed report, arguing that he was not qualified to testify as an expert on military matters.

In their August 21, 2012 ruling permitting the inclusion of Mr. Dioba, who also goes by the in-court pseudonym Witness D04-59, on the defense list of witnesses, judges stated that should the prosecution wish to challenge the relevance of specific parts of his testimony, they should do so in court during his questioning.

On the admissibility of the expert’s report, judges ruled that this would be determined upon completion of his testimony, should the defense seek its submission as evidence. “Should issues relating to the material on which Witness D04-59 bases his conclusions arise during his testimony, the prosecution may challenge that material and those conclusions in due course,” the judges ruled.

The prosecution continues its cross-examination of the expert tomorrow morning.