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Witness Says Bemba Troops Did Not Commit Crimes

Today, an individual who was among the Congolese troops deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) during the 2002-2003 armed conflict told Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial that he was not aware of any crimes committed by his colleagues.

“Did the Movement for the Liberation of Congo commit any rapes, murders or pillage at all?” asked International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson.

“I can not answer that question in general terms. However, regarding my group, I did not learn of any such cases,” replied ‘Witness D04-45’ whose testimony started last Wednesday. He is testifying via video link from the Democratic Republic of Congo with protective measures including image and voice distortion. Most of his evidence is being heard in private session.

Last week, he testified about the composition of the 28th battalion of the MLC and the Congolese towns in which its soldiers were stationed prior to their deployment to the neighboring country.

He also recounted how Central African armed authorities provided communications equipment to the foreign troops, and described joint operations between the Congolese fighters and the Central African armed forces (FACA). The witness said the joint operations to drive back insurgents were coordinated through a radio network manned by Central African operators.

Mr. Bemba, 50, is on trial for allegedly failing to control his troops who allegedly raped, murdered, and plundered Central African civilians during their five-month intervention in that country. The troops were deployed into the conflict at the behest of then president Ange-Félix Patassé who was faced with a coup attempt.

‘Witness D04-45′ has testified that rebel forces led by François Bozizé were the perpetrators of crimes in the town of Point Kilomètre 12 (PK12), where they had their headquarters before they were driven out at the end of October 2002.

This afternoon, Mr. Iverson asked the witness whether he has told “the whole truth” to the chamber.

“Yes, I have been answering calmly to the questions by speaking the truth, the whole truth,” the witness replied.

The cross-examination of ‘Witness D04-45’ continues tomorrow morning.