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Prosecution Tenders Evidence on Bemba’s Satellite Phone

The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has asked judges to accept into evidence various items including three emails that she claims “clearly identify” the telephone number and email address of Jean-Pierre Bemba.

In an October 30, 2013 application, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges to accept into evidence 21 documents and one video recording, many of them related to the evidence of ‘Witness D0-15,’ who testified for the defense last month.

“The items are pertinent to the determination of the truth and they corroborate evidence already received by the chamber in the course of the trial,” said Ms. Bensouda.

‘Witness D04-15,’ a former close associate of Mr. Bemba, stated that when the decision was made to send Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers into an armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), it was decided that those troops would fall under the command of that country’s authorities.

He also dispelled claims by prosecutors that the war crimes accused possessed a satellite phone that he used to issue orders to his troops.

Besides the emails, other items related to the testimony of ‘Witness D04-15’ include two reports produced by Amnesty International, two others from the United Nations, two flight log books for Bangui Airport, three SIM card analysis reports, a video, and press articles.

The prosecutor also tendered two “inconsistent statements” of the defense’s ‘Witness D04-18’ and the Lusaka peace Agreement signed on July 10, 1999 by warring parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including Mr. Bemba’s group.

‘Witness D04-18’ testified last June and absolved Mr. Bemba of any command responsibility of his troops deployed in the neighboring country. A former high ranking MLC officer, he stated that once he was deployed to the CAR in 2001, he had no direct contact with Mr. Bemba and received no orders from him. He said that he communicated via a walkie talkie given to him by the Central African armed forces and all orders he received were from the country’s generals.

The relevance of each item tendered into evidence was detailed in a confidential submission. However, the prosecutor said the items “provide significant value related to contested issues” in the case. They showed that Mr. Bemba had the “material ability” to command and control his MLC troops in the CAR and that he had knowledge of crimes committed by his troops.

Ms. Bensouda said the items also provided relevant information on the accused’s failure to take reasonable and necessary measures to rein in his troops. In addition, they contained information that challenged the credibility of defense witnesses.

Besides testifying that Mr. Bemba did not possess a satellite phone, ‘Witness D0-15’ also told the trial that the accused was a political figure that lacked the professional capacity or skills to command military operations. For his part, ‘Witness D04-18’ said that the accounts Mr. Bemba gave in his autobiography about issuing orders to his troops in the CAR were incorrect and for “political propaganda purposes.”

Numerous prosecution witnesses testified that Mr. Bemba owned a Thuraya satellite phone which he regularly used to communicate with his commanders, who were in the CAR.

Mr. Bemba denies that he had the means to command his troops and also claims it was not his fighters who committed the rapes, murders, and pillaging over which he has been on trial since November 2010.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue tomorrow with further testimony from the 33rd defense witness – ‘Witness D04-54’ – who is giving all his evidence in closed session.