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New Witness in Bemba Trial Testifies Entirely in Closed Session

Today, the defense in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba called its 33rd witness. However, all of the evidence by the individual who goes by the pseudonym ‘Witness D04-54′ will be heard in closed session.

At the start of the hearing this morning, presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner announced that pursuant to an earlier ruling, the witness was appearing before the court via video link and would be giving his testimony in full closed session. Judge Steiner did not give any further details.

In a September 17, 2013 ruling, International Criminal Court (ICC) judges granted a defense request to hear the testimony of this witness remotely from an unknown location due to his “professional commitments.” He was initially expected to take the stand on September 30. However, due to undisclosed reasons, his appearance was delayed. Last week, judges ruled that the testimony of ‘Witness D04-54’ should commence no later than October 30 and conclude by November 1.

Most of the witnesses in trials conducted so far at the ICC have testified with protective measures, including voice and face distortion in public broadcasts of their testimonies, as well as the use of pseudonyms. These measures are intended to protect witnesses against possible reprisal attacks if their identities were known to the public.

Mr. Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, is on trial at The Hague-based court for the alleged rape, murder, and plunder committed by his troops against civilians of the Central African Republic during an armed conflict during 2002-2003. The former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has pleaded not guilty to all five charges against him.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.