A Central African national testifying for Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) said today that she was raped by rebels loyal to François Bozizé during October of 2002.
Under questioning by defense lawyer Peter Haynes, ‘Witness D04-30’ stated that she learned that the rebels, who spent three days in her locality, committed numerous other brutalities.
“I was raped and in pain and suffering and was not able to leave my home,” she recalled. “However, I subsequently learned that they [rebels] raped other women and mistreated others.”
Testimony by ‘Witness D04-30’ is being heard by way of video link from an undisclosed location. During public broadcasts, her face and voice are distorted in order to protect her identity. Most of her testimony, including details of the rape incident, were given in closed session.
Mr. Bemba has been on trial at the ICC since November 2010 although he has been in the court’s detention since July 2008. He is charged with failure to rein in his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers who allegedly carried out mass rapes, murders, and plunder in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003. He denies the charges, claiming that it was not his fighters who committed the atrocities.
Over the last two weeks, the defense has called Central African nationals, who have testified that the perpetrators of the abuses were members of the Bozizé rebellion and not members of Mr. Bemba’s militia.
Today’s hearing was prematurely suspended after ‘Witness D04-30’ told judges that she was not feeling well and needed to take a break. Upon resumption after the break, presiding judge Sylvia Steiner announced that the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) had recommended that the witness “be given the rest of the day off.” Hearings were postponed until tomorrow morning.