Political

War crimes trial starts for Jean-Pierre Bemba

During the week the trial for war crimes of former Democratic Republic of Congo Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba began in The Hague.

Any trial at the International Criminal Court is notable given the severity of the crimes that have to alleged to get before the court, but Bemba’s case has two particular features.

Bemba is the highest profile politician to have been brought before the court (Slobodan Miloševi? was being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia when he died).

In addition, Jean-Pierre Bemba’s trial is the first before the ICC to centre on rape, with allegations of mass rapes leading to the charges of rape as a war crime and rape as a crime against humanity.

Here’s how the AFP reported the first day’s evidence:

The first witness at the war crimes trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba took the stand on Tuesday, describing how beret-clad soldiers raped a young girl in a Central African Republic village.

Speaking from behind a screen to protect his identity, the unnamed witness told the International Criminal Court that troops belonging to the former Democratic Republic of Congo vice president wreaked havoc on the village in 2002.

“A woman brought her eight- or nine-year-old daughter to me, covered in blood, raped,” the witnesses said in tears.

“Because the little girl was still….fresh, they did not take the mother, they preferred the little girl, they raped her in front of her mother in the house,” he said.

“I don’t know what happened to that girl, they raped her, big men like me, they raped her,” said the witness, who voice and face were disguised in the court transmission.

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