A soldier who was deployed in the armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003 says Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops were not deployed in some of the towns where prosecutors say crimes were committed.
Continuing his testimony at the International Criminal Court (ICC), ‘Witness D04-45’ said soldiers of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) were not deployed in the towns of Bossembélé and Bozoum during December 2002. The witness said this was after prosecuting lawyer Eric Iverson showed him documents stating that the accused’s fighters committed crimes in the two towns.
The witness was a member of the MLC’s 28th battalion, one of the two that Mr. Bemba sent to the CAR in October 2002 to help the country’s president, Ange-Félix Patassé, fight insurgents. Prosecutors allege that the accused’s fighters committed rapes, killings, and pillaging but he failed to stop or to punish them. He denies the charges.
The witness also stated that if acts of violence had been carried out, General André Mazzi of the Central African armed forces “would have arrested them and prevented them from carrying out further crimes” since he was their operations commander.
‘Witness D04-45’ has stated that upon arrival in the conflict country, the Congolese troops were “integrated” into the national army for joint operations commanded by Central African officers.
The witness is testifying via video link from the Congolese capital Kinshasa. His testimony suggests that he was an insider in the MLC militia. In addition to judges granting him protective measures including the use of an in-court pseudonym, and his voice and image being distorted from the public, most of his evidence has been heard in closed session.
‘Witness D04-45’ is scheduled to continue giving evidence tomorrow morning.