The Hague, April 13, 2011 (FH) - Dr. André Tabo, a Central African expert who heads Bangui Hospital psychiatry department testified from April 12 to 14 for the prosecution before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Jean-Pierre Bemba's trial. He explained how soldiers used rape as a weapon of war in the Central African Republic (CAR) during 2002 and 2003.

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He stated that Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) soldiers raped women as "punishment" for supporting rebels who attempted to overthrow then president Ange-Félix Patassé.

Since the end of the war, Dr Tabo has treated 371 rape victims. Some of the women who were assaulted got pregnant, other got infected with HIV or syphilis.

After being raped, they also had to endure being called "Banyamulenge women" by their neighbors, while their husbands were nicknamed " the man whose wife was raped".  "These women feel guilty and ashamed", Dr Tabo explained. Sometimes, their husband left them and their children were taken away.

Most of raped women suffer acute depression and " some of them have started to take alcohol and drugs to fight their anxiety and the trauma", Dr Tabo added.

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.

He was arrested in Belgium on May 24, 2008. His trial opened on November 22, 2010.


© Hirondelle News Agency