The 15th witness to testify for the defense in the war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba on Monday continued to give evidence in closed session. 'Witness D04-19' first took the witness stand on February 26, 2013. He is testifying in the trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) via video link from an undisclosed location.
Although it had earlier been expected that questioning of this witness would be completed last Wednesday, he has continued his testimony today. All of his testimony is in closed session, so it is not possible to know what the nature of this individual's evidence is. He is the first witness to testify since the resumption of the trial of the former Congolese vice president, which had been temporarily suspended last December.
Meanwhile, on March 6, 2013, judges issued an order granting a defense motion to also hear the testimony of the upcoming 'Witness D04-45' via video link. According to defense lawyers, hearing this individual's evidence via video link "would provide the greatest chance" of avoiding gaps in the presentation of evidence. For reasons not made public, this witness is unable to travel to the seat of the court in The Hague.
'Witness D04-45' is expected to take the stand following the completion of testimony by the current witness. The defense team has 63 individuals on its witness list, but many of them have expressed difficulties in travelling to The Hague to testify.
Prosecutors charge that during the armed conflict in the Central African Republic between October 2002 and March 2003, soldiers from Mr. Bemba Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) militia committed "repeated, widespread and brutal rapes, murders and pillaging of civilians."
Prosecutors charge that as commander-in-chief of the MLC, Mr. Bemba had the power to prevent and repress the commission of these crimes by his troops, but he did not do so. The soldiers were deployed into the conflict to support then president Ange-Félix Patassé, who faced a coup attempt led by his former army chief François Bozizé. Mr. Bemba denies all five charges against him.
The trial is scheduled to continue tomorrow morning.