THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An alleged rebel commander from Central African Republic has been detained and turned over to the International Criminal Court by authorities in the troubled African nation, on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes in the capital, Bangui, in 2013.
The court announced the surrender of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, of the Seleka rebel group, on Sunday night. He was detained on a warrant issued by the court under seal in January 2019.
Fighting raged in Bangui in 2013 between the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power from then-President Francois Bozize, and a mainly Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. The violence left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The Hague-based court already has detained two alleged commanders of the anti-Balaka, Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, whose trial is scheduled to start next month. Said is the first suspect detained from the Seleka side of the conflict.
A judge at the court who issued the arrest warrant found “reasonable grounds to believe that, from at least March 2013 until at least January 2014, a widespread and systematic attack was conducted by members of the Seleka against the civilian population and those perceived to be collectively responsible for, complicit with or supportive of the former Bozizé government and, later, of the Anti-Balaka,” the court said in a statement.
Said is charged with crimes including torture, persecution and enforced disappearances.
The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, welcomed the arrest.
“As I have previously stated, my office will relentlessly pursue justice for the victims of atrocity crimes in the Central African Republic. Today is another manifestation of that commitment,” she said.
The detention came with Central African Republic again in turmoil. On Friday, the government declared a 15-day nationwide state of emergency as a coalition of armed groups seeks to overthrow the newly reelected President Faustin-Archange Touadera.