Former CAR rebel leader wanted for war crimes surrenders to ICC
Cape Town - A former rebel group commander in the Central African Republic (CAR) who is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity has been arrested after surrendering to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a statement issued on Sunday, the court said it had arrested Mahamat Saïd Abdel Kain, 50, under a warrant issued under seal on January 7, 2019, relating to alleged crimes from 2013. A date for his initial appearance in The Hague has not been set.
Saïd is a former commander of a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka militia group that seized power in the CAR in March 2013.
The Seleka offensive plunged the country into violence and instability when the group’s brutal rule gave rise to the opposing “anti-balaka” Christian militias, several of whose former leaders also faced charges at the ICC, according to Arab News, a daily newspaper published in Saudi Arabia.
“I welcome today’s transfer of the suspect, Mr Mahamat Saïd Abdel Kani, to face justice for his alleged crimes as charged before the ICC,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a statement.
“As I have previously stated, my office will relentlessly pursue justice for the victims of atrocities in the Central African Republic, irrespective of which side of the conflict they may be on.”
The arrest comes against the backdrop of a state of emergency in the Central African nation, with fighting between the country’s army, backed by the UN Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), Russian and Rwandan troops, and rebels seeking to overturn the December 27 vote that saw President Faustin-Archange Touadéra taking his second term in office, Arab News reported.
The constitutional court last week confirmed Touadéra’s victory in the election, which took place amid political tensions, insecurity and increased human rights violations.
According to the announcement, Touadéra won with 53.16% of the votes in an election that saw a low turnout due to threats by armed groups that stepped up their operations in the days leading up to the polls.
Following the announcement, Touadéra said he was willing to hold talks with those wishing to work towards peace and the development of the impoverished country, but not with those who want to drag the CAR into blind violence, adding that the law will deal with them, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.
Opposition candidates angered about Touadéra’s re-election said the election was rife with fraud and irregularities. However, the constitutional court opposed those claims.
Meanwhile, a judge for the court said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Saïd was responsible for crimes including torture, persecutions, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts.
– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher