The next witness to testify in the defense of Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is expected to take the stand on Monday, September 30. Going by the court given name ‘Witness D04-54,’ this individual will testify remotely by way of video link.
Mr. Bemba’s lawyers requested judges to hear the testimony of this witness via video link in view of his “professional commitments” and in order to ensure the presentation of his evidence before the October 25, 2013 deadline for the close of the defense case.
In a September 17, 2013 ruling, Judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki granted the defense request, noting that they were “satisfied” with the defense’s justification related to the professional commitments of the witness. The judges also determined that hearing the evidence of ‘Witness D04-54’ remotely would ensure the expeditiousness of the proceedings and was not prejudicial to the rights of the accused.
Mr. Bemba, an opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is on trial at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors charge that his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia committed mass rapes, murder, and pillaging in the Central African Republic during an armed conflict in 2002 and 2003.
As the MLC’s commander-in-chief, Mr. Bemba is being held criminally responsible for the alleged crimes. He has pleaded not guilty in the trial that commenced in November 2010. The defense opened its case in August 2012 and has so far called 32 witnesses.
Next month, the defense is scheduled to call ‘Witness D04-14,’ ‘Witness D04-44,’ and ‘Witness D04-41’ before concluding the presentation of its evidence with a statement or testimony from Mr. Bemba.