15.02.11 - ICC/BEMBA - LOOTING IN BANGUI FUNDED BEMBA'S WAR IN THE CONGO (WITNESS)

The Hague, February 15, 2011 (FH) - Testifying for the Prosecution in Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC), a witness described on Tuesday how Bemba's Congolese rebels systematically pillaged his neighborhood.
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Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) is charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of war mainly for his command responsibility in crimes committed by his troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002 and 2003.

The witness, code-named "42" to protect his identity, told the court that MLC forces attacked his family on November 2002, raping his 10-year old daughter.

"In an African family, a girl doesn't talk about these things to her dad. She prefers to confide to her mom (...) But her mother came to tell me that our daughter had been totally destroyed. The girl told her that two Banyamulenge had raped her (...) She was 10, and a virgin."

At the time, Bemba's men had settled down in a Bangui neighborhood known as PK12 (12 km from the city centre). They had been called to his rescue by then President Ange-Felix Patassé to help him quell a domestic rebellion.

Witness "42" explained that MLC soldiers were also experts in looting: "These people are very well organized when it comes to stealing", he said to the Bench. "They obliged me to lie down on the floor. One of them put his foot on my neck. Then they broke the closet and took my books".

Militiamen were also looking for mattresses: "What most interested them were foam rubber mattresses. Were they sleeping on mats back home, in their country? I don't know. But each of them would carry away three or four mattresses".

According to the witness, the booty taken in CAR was funding Bemba's war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "A regular flight connection was even established between Bangui and the DRC for Bemba to bankroll his movement".

Witness "42" also stated that Central-African rebels behaved differently. According to him, fighters for then rebel leader François Bozize, who is now CAR's President, were "freedom fighters". "They didn't do any harm to the people", he asserted. "Their goal was only to gain power".

Cross-examination was expected to start on Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial opened on November 22, 2010.

SM/GF

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