20 May 2013

Central African Republic: Judges Approve Revised Bemba Witness List

Trial judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have approved an amended list of witnesses in which 13 fewer individuals are expected to testify for Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Judges Sylvia Steiner (presiding), Joyce Aluoch, and Kuniko Ozaki have also approved the order of appearance for the five witnesses expected to testify next for the Congolese opposition leader. The first of these witnesses was expected to start giving evidence on Tuesday, May 21. However, hearings have now been cancelled until Friday, May 24. Since the start of the defense case last August, 19 witnesses have testified.

Earlier in the month, defense lawyers Aimé Kilolo-Musamba and Peter Haynes filed a request to reduce from 63 to 50, the number of witnesses they intended to call.

According to the lawyers, they were unable to secure the appearance of 13 individuals before the court due to uncooperative authorities in three unnamed countries.

The defense proposed to call the following witnesses: 'Witness D04-13,' 'Witness D04-18,' 'Witness D04-04,' 'Witness D04-03,' and 'Witness D04-02' over the coming weeks.

In their May 15 ruling, the judges approved the defense's proposal and ordered Mr. Bemba's lawyers to liaise with the court's Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) to ensure the appearance of the five witnesses. 'Witness D04-13' is scheduled to be the first of the five witnesses to testify.

Mr. Bemba is faced with charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the court based in The Hague. He denies prosecution allegations that he failed to discipline his Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers, who allegedly committed mass rapes, killings, and plunder in the Central African Republic during 2002 and 2003.

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