19 October 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Seventh Defense Witness Completes Testimony

The seventh witness to testify for Congolese opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has today completed giving evidence at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

'Witness D04-57' reiterated that Congolese troops belonging to Mr. Bemba's group who were deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between October 2002 and March 2003 fell under the command of that country's authorities.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, he reiterated that on a visit to the Central African capital Bangui, Mr. Bemba told his soldiers to "respect" the authority of the local generals. "He gestured to General Bombayake. Colonel Lengbe was beside him," said the witness.

Ferdinand Bombayake was the commander of the Central African presidential guard while Thierry Lengbe commanded the country's center for military operations.

According to the witness, Mr. Bemba addressed his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) troops at a school in the suburb of PK 12. The address was given in French and lasted about 15 minutes.

Mr. Bemba is on trial for allegedly failing to take action against his soldiers who prosecutors say committed mass rapes, killings, and plunder against the Central African civilian population. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of war crimes and three crimes against humanity.

Last November, the prosecution's 'Witness 213,' a former MLC insider, testified that there were several civilian corpses along the roads Mr. Bemba used when he visited his troops. This witness said Mr. Bemba did not speak about the corpses or the need for discipline when he addressed his troops, but only "encouraged" the work the troops were doing.

However, testifying today, 'Witness D04-07' said he did not see any bodies along the road, although he accompanied the Congolese leader during that visit.

The trial is scheduled to continue on Monday, October 22, 2012, with the testimony of a new defense witness.

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