A former intelligence officer in the Central African Republic (CAR) who is testifying for Congolese war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba was today cross-examined by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors, almost exclusively in private session.
‘Witness D04-07’ started giving testimony yesterday, with some of his evidence heard in open court, although judges granted him protective measures including the use of image and voice distortion as well as the use of a pseudonym to hide his identity.
Yesterday, the witness gave details of the logistics support and a subsistence allowance provided by Central African authorities to Mr. Bemba’s troops who were deployed in that country during the 2002-2003 armed conflict. He also said that Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops received orders from Central African commanders. The troops were in the country to help its then president Ange-Félix Patassé beat back a coup attempt.
Mr. Bemba, 49, has denied that he was aware his soldiers deployed in the neighboring country were brutalizing civilians but chose not to take action. Prosecutors allege that the Congolese troops raped, murdered, and pillaged, and further charge that Mr. Bemba as their commander-in-chief bears responsibility for those crimes.
‘Witness D04-07’ is the fifth witness to be called by the defense in the proceedings against Mr. Bemba at the court based in The Hague, which started in November 2010. Mr. Bemba’s defense lawyers have told judges that they intend to call approximately 60 witnesses, including individuals with “tangible knowledge” of the five month period during which the accused’s soldiers were deployed in the CAR.
Before adjourning this afternoon, Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner ordered the Victims and Witness’s Unit (VWU) to carry out an assessment of the physical and psychological well-being of ‘Witness D04-07.’ It is unclear why this order was issued.
The trial continues tomorrow morning.