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Witness: Central African Rapes Were Fueled by Drug Abuse

A witness has told judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that rebel fighters in the Central African Republic (CAR) committed several rapes after abusing drugs.

Testifying under the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-23,’ he told the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba that the rebels committed numerous crimes, including rapes and pillaging. “There was a great number of excesses where women were taken violently,” said the witness, who was testifying for the second day.

Under questioning by defense lawyer Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, the witness stated that he heard of many cases of rape perpetrated by rebels belonging to the group that was led by François Bozizé. The alleged crimes were committed during 2002-2003 when the rebels were fighting the government of then president Ange-Félix Patassé, which they overthrew in March of 2003.

Under cross-examination by prosecution lawyer Eric Iverson, ‘Witness DO4-23’ conceded that he had no knowledge of misconduct by Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops, who were deployed into the conflict in support of president Patassé. Subsequent questioning by Mr. Iverson was done in closed session.

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba is responsible for the rape, murder, and pillaging allegedly carried out by his militia. He denies that his troops committed the crimes.

The prosecution claimed in its opening statement back in November 2010 that the crimes committed were “not incidental” but “widespread” in all areas where MLC troops were present. Furthermore, the prosecution accuses Mr. Bemba’s group of having used rape as a weapon of war.

Last June, a former soldier in the CAR army said his colleagues raped women whose husbands they suspected of supporting the rebels.

Meanwhile, also today, ‘Witness D04-26’ described as “excesses” the rape incidents that he learned about, which Bozizé rebels had allegedly committed between October 25 and October 30, 2002. This witness was cross-examined by prosecution lawyer Massimo Scaliotti in closed session.

‘Witness D04-23’ and ‘Witness D04-26’ are testifying concurrently before The Hague-based court via video link from an undisclosed location. The bulk of their testimonies today was heard in closed session. Both continue to give evidence tomorrow.