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Witness Called by Judges Takes Stand in Bemba Trial

An unnamed individual called by judges to testify in the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba at the International Criminal Court (ICC) today took the witness stand but is providing all his evidence in closed session.

Although his identity has been kept secret, judges said his name had been “repeatedly mentioned” by both prosecution and defense witnesses yet none of the parties in the trial had called him to give evidence. He is testifying under the pseudonym ‘Witness CHM-01.’

Article 64 and Article 69 of the Rome Statute upon which the ICC is founded allow for judges to call additional witnesses as they consider necessary for the determination of the truth. A second individual, whose name was also repeatedly mentioned by witnesses, informed judges that he was unable to testify in the trial.

Judges had earlier directed that ‘Witness CHM-01’ should testify at the seat of the court in The Hague. However, his evidence is being heard by way of video link from an undisclosed location. He is expected to be questioned on “relevant and contested issues” in the case, first by the judges, followed by prosecutors, victims’ lawyers, and finally defense lawyers.

It is unknown what role ‘Witness CHM-01’ played during the intervention of Mr. Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops in the Central African Republic from October 2002 until March 2003. The former vice president of the Democratic of Congo is on trial over the alleged crimes committed by his troops who deployed in the conflict country. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of war crimes (murder and rape) and three counts of crimes against humanity (murder, rape, and pillaging) in the trial that opened three years ago.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled through Friday.

 

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