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Witness Insists MLC Soldiers Did Not Commit Crimes

Today, the 22nd witness to testify for Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) concluded his testimony insisting that the accused’s soldiers did not commit crimes during their deployment in an armed conflict in 2002 and 2003.

Testifying under the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-09,’ he reiterated his earlier testimony that it was rebel forces led by François Bozizé who committed crimes during this period as they fought to capture power in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The witness, who was a soldier in the Central African army, fought alongside Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers, who were in the country to help beat back the insurgents.

Last Friday, ‘Witness D04-09’ stated that the inhabitants of Boy-Rabé fled their homes when rebels occupied the town. Today, he said fleeing residents stated that they fled the town because the Bozizé rebels were shooting indiscriminately. While being questioned by victims’ lawyers, the witness said those who fled carried some of their property on their heads.

In his testimony last week, ‘Witness D04-09’ said the rebels committed murders, rapes, and pillaging as they advanced towards the capital. He said they also perpetuated “massive destruction” in the days following their capture of power on March 15, 2003. The witness said he was not aware of any crimes committed by the MLC.

Mr. Bemba is on trial for allegedly failing to control or punish his troops as they allegedly raped, killed, and looted civilians during their five month presence in the conflict country.

He has denied all five charges against him in the trial that began in November 2010. He argues that any of the numerous armed groups active in the armed conflict could have committed the crimes he has been charged with. Moreover, he argues that once his troops left the Democratic Republic of Congo, they were no longer under his direct command and control but that of Central African authorities.

Testimony by ‘Witness D04-09’ was heard with his identity concealed and by way of video link from an undisclosed location in Africa.

The trial continues tomorrow morning with the testimony of a new defense witness.