Central African Republic

ICC war crimes trial for CAR militia leader opens

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a trial Sept. 26 against Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a leader of the Séléka rebel group, for crimes humanity and war crimes in violation of the Rome Statute. Said allegedly committed these crimes in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), in 2013. Said pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Report sheds light on Wagner Group crimes in Africa

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) issued a new report Aug. 30 on the Wagner Group's activities in the Central African Republic and Mali, and it makes for chilling reading. The Russian mercenary group has targeted civilians in more than half of its operations in CAR (where it began operating in 2018) and over 70% in Mali (where it arrived last year). Its CAR deployment was initially limited to training the national armed forces, but it took on a direct combat role in late 2020 as rebels threatened the capital. It won praise for helping the state capture major towns, but abuses have now angered large parts of the civilian population. In jihadist-hit Mali, the mercenaries have also been involved in a number of high-profile abuses—mostly notably in the central town of Moura, where hundreds of non-combatants were massacred earlier this year. 

Wagner Group named in massacres on Sudan-CAR borderlands

Russian mercenaries are accused of carrying out a series of deadly attacks on artisanal miners in the lawless border zone between Sudan and the Central African Republic, in an apparent effort to establish dominance over outlaw gold mining operations with allied paramilitary factions. Dozens of local miners are said to have been killed in at least three major attacks on their encampments this year, allegedly involving mercenaries working for the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.

Russian mercenaries accused in CAR atrocities

Forces in the Central African Republic, identified by witnesses as Russian mercenaries, "appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019," Human Rights Watch finds in a new report. On April 15, the United Nations announced it wil investigate the circumstances in which at least 10 people were killed in the CAR's northeast, with initial reports alleging involvement by Russian forces from the paramilitary Wagner Group. In the attacks three days earlier, up to 15 civilians were killed at the villages of Gordil and Ndah, some 1,000 kilometers northeast of the capital Bangui. Local officials and aid workers told AFP the attacks were carried out by elements of the "FACA [Central African Armed Forces] and their allies"—the term used by both the authorities and the UN for Russian mercenaries. HRW documents other such claims. On July 21, 2021, apparently Russian-speaking forces killed at least 12 unarmed men near the town of Bossangoa, some 300 kilometers north of the capital. HRW is calling upon the CAR's Special Criminal Court (SCC) or the International Criminal Court to "investigate these incidents as well as other credible allegations of abuse by Russia-linked forces with a view to criminal prosecution."

CAR war crimes trial delayed —again

A court created seven years ago to prosecute war crimes in the Central African Republic was due to open its first trial this month. But a no-show by defense lawyers means victims' associations and others pushing for justice will have to wait a little longer. The Bangui-based Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a hybrid tribunal composed of national and international jurists tasked with prosecuting war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. It took time to become operational because of staff recruitment challenges, insecurity, and limited resources. Arrest warrants have also not been executed, and the government has released high-profile suspects without SCC authorization. Its inaugural trial—set to resume in April—concerns three members of the 3R rebel group accused of involvement in a 2019 massacre. Rebel groups remain active across the CAR, which has one of the highest per capita humanitarian caseloads in the world.

ICC takes CAR war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 14 announced that former militia leader Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka (Mokom), who is suspected to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic (CAR), has been surrendered by the Republic of Chad. A warrant for Mokom's arrest was issued in December 2018, when the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber II determined that Mokom was the "National Coordinator of Operations" for the Anti-Balaka militia. In this capacity, he is believed to have committed murder, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution and other crimes against humanity. He also allegedly committed war crimes by targeting civilians. 

Russian mercenaries to Mali?

France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa's Sahel nations, has criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali's transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its "firm opposition" to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (TNH)

Chad accuses CAR troops of 'war crime' at border

Chad's defense ministry charged May 30 that troops of the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) attacked a Chadian military post, and that this amounted to a war crime. Chad's Foreign Minister Cherif Mahamat Zene said: "The Central African armed forces attacked the outpost of Sourou in Chad [and] killed a Chad soldier, injured five and kidnapped five others who were then executed in Mbang on the Central African Republic side."

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