A key preliminary hearing has been opened for a suspected rebel leader in the Central African Republic, to establish whether the evidence against him is strong enough to merit bringing him to justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – A key pre-trial hearing opened Tuesday at the International Criminal Court for a suspected rebel leader in the Central African Republic, with the court’s chief prosecutor urging judges to confirm evidence against the suspect are strong enough to merit indictment on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, who is accused of being a leader of the Seleka rebel group, was arrested and surrendered to court in January under an arrest warrant issued under seal by the ICC two years earlier, alleging his involvement in crimes committed in the capital, Bangui. , in 2013.
He faces 14 counts relating to the detention and mistreatment of prisoners at two detention sites in Bangui in 2013. He was not required to argue in court at Monday’s hearing.
The city sank into a violent conflict in 2013 between the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels, who ousted then-president François Bozizé, and a predominantly Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. The violence has claimed thousands of lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
Two presumed anti-Balaka commanders, Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, are already on trial by the world court. Said is the first suspect detained on the Seleka side of the conflict.
Said, 51, is charged with crimes including torture, persecution and enforced disappearance. He appeared in court on Tuesday wearing a medical suit and mask and listening to a simultaneous translation of the hearing through headphones.
The court’s new chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, told judges the case against Said was straightforward.
“This is a case of detention, and we say the evidence shows an overwhelming majority that Mr. Said was in the room where it happened. He encouraged him. He made it easier, but he also participated in beatings and mistreatment, ”Khan said.
He quoted a victim who was tied up in one of the detention centers who said that “the pain was so excruciating that he asked his tormentors to take him out of his misery and kill him.”
The Séléka is accused of targeting people in Bangui perceived to be supporters of the former Bozizé government in a murderous campaign.
A peace deal between the government and 14 rebel groups was signed in February 2019, but violence blamed on Bozizé and his allies threatens the deal.