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    CAR Anti-Balaka leader accused of war crimes to appear at the ICC

    March 18, 2022

    The ICC Chamber awaiting Maxime Mokom

    MAXIME Mokom, a former leader of Anti-Balaka forces in the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR), is to make an initial appearance at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague on March 22 to answer to charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

    Mokom was surrendered to the ICC on March 14 by Chadian authorities following a warrant for his arrest that was issued in December 2018.

    He is the fourth suspect, and second high-level Anti-Balaka leader, to be arrested in the connection with the ICC’s ongoing investigations in the CAR.

    Mokom allegedly committed the crimes in Bangui and other locations in the CAR between December 2013 and December 2014.

    During the conflict, which flared up in August 2012, armed groups allegedly violated the laws of war with impunity, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure, and leaving trails of death, displacement, and destitution.

    The predominantly Muslim Seleka and the largely Christian militia, Anti-Balaka, two main parties to the conflict, also allegedly committed sexual slavery and rape across the country.

    The Seleka was a coalition of armed groups opposed to former President François Bozizé, while the Anti-Balaka forces, which backed Bozizé, allegedly targeted the Muslim population and others perceived to support the Seleka movement.

    The violence led to thousands of deaths and left hundreds of thousands displaced.

    In May 2014, the CAR government referred the situation in the country to the ICC, and an investigation was opened by the Prosecutor in September of that year.

    When issuing the warrant of arrest for Mokom, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II found reasonable grounds to believe that he was a National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka and, in this capacity, he was suspected of being responsible for the crimes he has been charged with.

    ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, in welcoming the transfer of Mokom to the Court, said it “demonstrates my Office’s ongoing commitment to combat impunity for the most heinous crimes that have plagued the population of the Central African Republic”.

    He added: “It also underscores our firm commitment to bring justice to the victims who were subjected to the violent crimes that have been committed in the CAR.”

    Khan said he was “grateful to the Chadian authorities who made this operation possible, and for the ongoing assistance from the CAR authorities”.

    He also expressed “my admiration for the witnesses from the CAR” and added: “Their courage and fortitude have been, and continue to be, essential for establishing the truth and progressing the cause of justice.”

    Khan said he remained concerned about the security situation and reports of serious violence and crimes committed against civilians in the country.

    “All these crimes must stop,” he said.

    “In this respect, I stress again that anyone who commits crimes – be it murder, pillage, rape, or other crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court – is liable to prosecution,” Khan added.

    Human Rights Watch welcomed the surrender of Mokom, and said that it was a significant step forward for the ICC in its efforts to bring justice for crimes committed in the CAR.

    “To have Maxime Mokom in ICC custody is a major step for justice for victims of atrocities committed across the Central African Republic,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

    “Mokom joins another high-level Anti-Balaka leader at the ICC, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona, who was arrested in December 2018, and we hope that securing the surrender of high-level Seleka suspects implicated in serious crimes in the Central African Republic to face justice also will be a priority,” she added.

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