15 March 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Insider Witness in Third Day of Closed Session

The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba today continued in closed session for the third day, as the last prosecution witness - a former insider in the group led by the accused - testified remotely via video link from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

'Witness 36â-' is the last of the former insiders in the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) to testify against the group's leader at his trial at the International Criminal Court. His evidence relates to the group's activities and operations during their deployment in the 2002-2003 Central African armed conflict. In their opening statement in November 2010, prosecutors stated that they would call 13 insider witnesses.

Earlier this year, judges Sylvia Steiner, Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Osaki ruled that 'Witness 36â-' would give all testimony in private session. Other insider witnesses, in particular 'Witness 75,' 'Witness 63,' 'Witness 169,' 'Witness 32,' 'Witness 15,' and 'Witness 44' have also testified against the former vice president of Congo entirely in closed session.

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Bemba, as the MLC's commander-in-chief, is criminally responsible for three war crimes and two crimes against humanity stemming from his troops' misconduct in the neighboring country. He denies the charges.

It is unclear when 'Witness 36â-' will complete his evidence. Judges have granted permission to five victims participating in the trial to give evidence once the prosecution closes its case. Thereafter, the defense will open its case.

Hearings in the trial are scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.

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