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Missing Witness Delays Bemba Hearings Yet Again

A witness who had earlier been expected to start testifying in the defense of Jean-Pierre Bemba on September 23 is still unavailable to start giving evidence, which has prompted the International Criminal Court (ICC) to cancel hearings this week.

Court officials indicated that the witness was not available to start testifying, but there were no reasons given as to why he was unavailable. ‘Witness D04-54’ had earlier been expected to start his testify from September 24 via video link from an unknown location. Judges granted him leave to give evidence remotely due to his professional commitments.

Last month, Mr. Bemba’s lawyers stated that after this individual’s testimony, ‘Witness D0-14,’ ‘Witness D04-41,’ and ‘Witness D04-44,’ would be called, provisionally beginning on October 7. However, the defense lawyers stated that at the time, there was no “viable regime” in place for the receipt of evidence from these witnesses. Consultations were ongoing with the court’s Victims and Witnesses Unit to enable the hearing of the testimony of these witnesses.

Mr. Bemba has been on trial over war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC since November 2010. Prosecutors charge that his Movement for the Liberation of Congo soldiers raped, murdered, and pillaged in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

Hearings are scheduled to resume on Monday, October 7, 2013.