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Witness: I Have No Knowledge of Atrocities by Bemba’s Troops

The 31st witness to testify in the defense of Jean-Pierre Bemba on Tuesday stated that she was not aware of any crimes committed by the Congolese opposition leader’s militia. However, ‘Witness D04-30’ said she spent a lot of time indoors during the deployment of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers in her country.

“Did you hear about any crimes committed by the Congolese troops during the time?” asked prosecution lawyer Jean-Jacques Badibanga, referring to the period between October 2002 and March 2003, when fighting raged in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The witness replied: “I did not hear any such thing.”

She explained that after she was raped by rebels loyal to François Bozizé at the start of the conflict, she remained indoors and “maybe” during that time the MLC soldiers committed crimes. “I could not have known,” she said.

The witness, a Central African national, has testified at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for three days but provided most of her evidence in closed session. In open court, the witness said she identified her attackers as Central African nationals because they spoke the local language Sango.

She said she learned from members of her community that the rebels, who spent three days in her locality, committed other brutalities.

“Were you given instructions on what to say during your testimony?” Mr. Badibanga asked the witness.

“No, nobody gave me any instructions of that type,” replied ‘Witness D04-30.’ She denied receiving money or promises of any kind in exchange for her testimony.

Prosecutors claim Mr. Bemba, the MLC commander-in-chief, failed to restrain or to sanction his troops who allegedly committed rape, murder, and pillaging in the CAR conflict. He denies all five charges against him, stating that his troops who were in the neighboring country to assist its government fight back a Bozizé-led rebellion were not the perpetrators of the alleged crimes.

Before hearings adjourned this afternoon, presiding judge Sylvia Steiner announced that there were no further witnesses scheduled to testify this week. The date for the next hearing would be announced in due course.