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CAR hands former Seleka leader to ICC on charges of war crimes

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Tuesday, 26 January 2021 11:46

The International Criminal Court, in The Hague (Netherlands). © Rick Bajornas / United Nations Photo

Against a backdrop of renewed fighting in the CAR, Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the rebel Séléka faction, has been handed over by Central African authorities to the International Criminal Court. He is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity between 2013 and 2014.

It was just after midnight on 25 January when Mahamat Said Abdel Kani arrived at the detention centre of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

He handed over to the court by Central African authorities on 24 January, on account of an arrest warrant issued on 7 January 2019. Suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the 50-year-old man from Bria, in the northern province of Ndélé, is accused of having commanded the Séléka troops in Bangui between March 2013 and January 2014 during the conflict between the Séléka and Anti-Balaka militias.

More recently, Abdel Kani is said to have played a role in Noureddine Adam’s party the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC). The former number two in the Séléka, Adam now co-leads the Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC), whose troops attacked Bangui on 13 January.

Opposing camps

“I welcome the transfer of the suspect, Mr. Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, to the International Criminal Court to be prosecuted for his alleged crimes,” said ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. “I am grateful to all those who have worked to make this operation a success. My office will continue to work tirelessly to bring justice to the victims of the atrocious crimes [that were committed] in the Central African Republic.”

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Seized on 30 May 2014 by the Central African government, the ICC opened an investigation on 24 September into the alleged crimes committed by the Séléka and anti-Balaka. The violence that occurred during this period led to the deaths of thousands of people and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of others.

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The suspect joined two of his compatriots – also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity – who were part of the opposing camp: Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Édouard Ngaïssona, former alleged leaders of the anti-Balaka militia, whose trial is due to begin on 9 February.

Cooperation

Re-elected president of the CAR on 24 January with nearly 54% of the vote, could Faustin-Archange Touadéra facilitate the transfer of other militia leaders to the ICC? During her third visit to Bangui since taking office in October 2020, Bensouda welcomed the progress of investigations conducted by her office.

“I have always been very clear: both parties involved in the conflict, the Séléka and the anti-Balaka, are being investigated. I wanted to make sure that this message has been conveyed to the Central African authorities, so that we will be able to cooperate more effectively,” she told us upon her return. Abdel Kani is expected to appear before a judge “as soon as possible”, said the court.

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