A soldier, who was among war crimes accused Jean-Pierre Bemba’s troops that are accused of brutalizing civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR), has detailed the logistics support provided to his contingent by that country’s army.
Testifying for a third day in Mr. Bemba’s trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the witness said when they joined the conflict, local military authorities provided them with various logistics necessary for executing the campaigns against insurgents.
‘Witness D04-13,’ who testified via video link and with protective measures, including image and voice distortion, said upon arrival in the CAR, the commander of Mr. Bemba’s troops was offered a house.
“The commander of the CAR armed forces gave a house to Mustafa Mukiza to live in,” said the witness, who was under questioning by Assingambi Zarambaud, a lawyer representing victims in the trial.
According to the witness, General Mukiza, who commanded Mr. Bemba’s troops deployed in the conflict country during 2002 and 2003, declined to live in the house fearing it could have been laced with land mines. The Congolese general set up camp in a nearby football field.
Under questioning by Marie-Edith Douzima-Lawson, another victims’ lawyer, ‘Witness D04-13’ stated that the Congolese troops received an allowance of 20,000 Central African Francs from local authorities, as well daily food rations, including rice, fish, cooking oil, and tomatoes. Most of the evidence by the witness was heard in closed session.
Yesterday, ‘Witness D04-13’ testified that prior to the start of field operations, the Congolese troops were provided with communications equipment including Motorola radio sets. Thereafter, the troops were “merged” with local forces and fell under the command of Central African army chief of staff, Andre Mazzi. The Central African military police was mandated with arresting any soldier – local or foreign – who disobeyed orders.
Mr. Bemba is on trial at court based in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, arising from his alleged failure to control his troops who prosecutors say brutalized civilians while deployed in the conflict in the CAR. He denies the charges, maintaining that the marauding soldiers did not belong to his group and that he had no means to command troops deployed in that country while he remained in Congo.
Tomorrow marks the end of the two weeks’ extension granted to defense lawyers to conclude the presentation of their oral evidence. However, it remains unclear whether the two outstanding witnesses – ‘Witness D04-14’ and ‘Witness D04-44’ – will have testified by then.
Before adjourning hearings this afternoon, Presiding Judge Sylvia Steiner said the date for the resumption of hearings would be announced in due course.