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Hearing Cancelled Due to Poor Health of Witness

Today’s hearing in the Jean-Pierre Bemba trial was cancelled because the witness who was due to continue his testimony was reported to be in poor health. ‘Witness D04-18,’ a former military officer with the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), the group that was founded by the accused, was initially reported to be in poor health yesterday, and he failed to continue his testimony in the afternoon.

Yesterday, Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner said a doctor was waiting to examine the witness, but she did not give any details on the illness of the witness. ‘Witness D04-18’ started testifying on Wednesday this week and has so far provided evidence mainly on the group’s chain of command. Judges granted him protective measures, including image and voice distortion, as well as the frequent use of private session, in order to protect his identity.

Since the start of his defense case at the International Criminal Court last August, Mr. Bemba has called 21 witnesses, many of them former members of the MLC who are familiar with the 2002-2003 conflict in the Central African Republic. Mr. Bemba denies that he was aware of the war crimes his soldiers were committing during that conflict but failed to punish them.