On the last day of his testimony, a former insider in war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s militia affirmed that no soldier from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) was present in many of the localities where war crimes are alleged to have been committed by the accused’s troops.
“No soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo went to Boy-Rabé,” said the soldier, who goes by the court-given name ‘Witness D04-45.’ He said the same was true of the towns of Fou and Mongoumba. “In the operations orders issued to us, the commander considered that Boy-Rabé was a position where after we defeated the enemy, we would go towards,” added the witness.
According to him, the MLC fought on one front line, advancing from the suburb known as Point Kilomètre 4 (PK4) through to Point Kilomètre 12 (PK12).
Prosecutors claim that Mr. Bemba’s troops committed murders, rape, and pillaging in Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003. Among the areas where prosecutors charge the crimes took place are PK12, Boy-Rabé, Fou, Mongoumba, Bossangoa, Damara, Bossembélé, Sibut, Bozoum, and Bossemptele. Although he was not in the CAR with the troops at the time, Mr. Bemba is on trial because, prosecutors charge, as leader of the MLC, he should bear responsibility for not having restrained or punished his soldiers.
While acknowledging that his troops went to the neighboring country to help its then president Ange-Félix Patassé fight off a rebellion, Mr. Bemba denies all five charges against him. He argues that none of his troops arrived in many of these towns at the dates many prosecution witnesses have said the alleged MLC fighters brutalized them. Also, he argues that any of the numerous armed groups active in the conflict country at the time could have been the perpetrators of crimes.
‘Witness D04-45’ has previously testified that he was not aware of any acts of violence committed by his fellow soldiers. Rather, he said rebel forces led by François Bozizé were the perpetrators of crimes, particularly in PK12.
The evidence of ‘Witness D04-45’ has been heard via video link from the Congolese capital Kinshasa. Judges granted the witness protective measures including image and voice distortion during public broadcasts of hearings. Most of his evidence has also been heard in closed session.
The court will go on spring judicial recess beginning Thursday, March 28. Hearings are scheduled to resume on Monday, April 8, with the testimony of a new defense witness.