15.03.11 - ICC/BEMBA - "BANYAMULENGE DID NOT COME ON THEIR OWN INITIATIVE" (WITNESS)

The Hague, March 15, 2011 (FH) - Trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba resumed on March 14 before the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the hearing of a witness called upon by the prosecutor.
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Code-named 29, she claimed that in October 2002, Banyamulenge - the name given to Jean-Pierre Bemba militia at the time - attacked her village of Mugumba, raping her and taking her family belongings.

"I heard voices, people screaming", witness 29 said. "I was inside with my father and my mother (...) I was worried because of my aging father, he was very tired (...) My older sister came in and I asked her to take our father away in the bush. My mother was healthy enough to walk."

She further explained that she was trying to pack a few belongings when three men entered the house. "One of them, the tallest, asked me to lie on the floor", she said, bursting into tears. "I tried to struggle with him but he was a man, he was too strong. He spread my legs and penetrated me. He was hurting me but he went on". Then, she explained, the two other soldiers also raped her.

Witness 29 also said that she heard an altercation between regular CAR soldiers and Banyamulenge concerning the looting. "We'll be back", Banyamulenge promised before leaving. They did came back on March 5, 2003. "What did our soldiers do with the money?" witness 29 asked. "If they hadn't taken it, we wouldn't have suffered that much".

During her cross-examination, Jean-Pierre Bemba's lead counsel Nkwebe Liriss asked the witness questions about a former statement in which she had said that "authorities should be tried". "I was talking about our country's authorities. They are the one who asked people from the other side of the river to come into our country. They didn't come on their own initiative. Some officers still hold their positions. Could they be tried?"

Witness 29's testimony was then heard in closed session.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, the leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) is charged with crimes against humanity and crimes of war mainly for his command responsibility in crimes committed by his troops in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

SM/GF

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