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Bad Weather Disrupts Bemba Hearings

Today, hearings in Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) were disrupted due to “technical problems” caused by a snow storm. Judges were scheduled to hear testimony by ‘Witness D04-45,’ who is testifying via video link from an undisclosed location. However, after two hours of hearing the witness in closed session, it was announced that hearings were suspended until further notice.

“We are experiencing technical problems due to the snow storm. There is no estimate on how long it will take for communication to be established. For the time being, we can’t proceed,” said presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner.

According to news reports, wintry conditions have caused widespread disruption across Europe over the past two days. The bad weather presumably affected the quality of telecommunication between The Hague and the location where the witness is testifying from.

‘Witness D04-45’ started testifying yesterday when defense lawyer Peter Haynes questioned him about the 28th battalion of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), which was deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003. Only the questions relating to the size and location of this battalion prior to its deployment were put to the witness in open court; the rest of the questioning was done in closed session.

Mr. Bemba, an opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is accused of failing to rein in his MLC soldiers as they allegedly raped, murdered, and pillaged in the neighboring country. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity.

The trial is scheduled to resume tomorrow morning.