The Hague, January 11, 2011 (FH) - Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial resumed today before the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the hearing of the fourth prosecution's witness. The Congolese senator is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, notably for his command responsibility in rapes, murders and pillaging perpetrated by his militia in Central African Republic (CAR) between October 26, 2002 and March 15, 2003.

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Testifying anonymously for security reasons, the fourth witness was partly heard in camera. She introduced herself as a direct victim of "Banyamulenge", the name given to troops of the Mouvement de Libération du Congo (MLC), Jean-Pierre Bemba's rebellion movement at the time.

She explained to the Court that On October 27, 2007, she was attacked twice by four members of the Banyamulenge militia. Her brother was killed. "Uncles and people from our neighborhood came. They took the corpse which was lying in a pool of blood. I heated water to wash it. I gave one of my loincloth", she remembered. Her brother was then buried at PK12, an area in the outskirts of Bangui.

She then testified in camera about her sexual aggression by militiamen.

When she came back to the stand, the witness explained how pillaging occurred : "They came into houses and said, "Give your money, give your money and we won't kill you".

On November 22, 2010, the trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba commenced before Trial Chamber III at the ICC. However, it was suspended on December 7. Since then, a decision from the judges allowed more victims to be part of the proceedings. They are now 1,312 to be represented by two defence lawyers.

On December 17, the Court rejected a request from the accused to be bailed out. However, according to Congolese media, Jean-Pierre Bemba was given the authorization to attend his step-mother funerals in Waterloo (Belgium) on January 11.

Jean-Pierre Bemba was arrested in Belgium on May 24, 2008. His trial continues on Wednesday.


© Hirondelle News Agency