Former Central Africa militia head handed over to ICC

THE HAGUE— Chadian authorities on Monday handed over to the International Criminal Court a former Central African Republic militia leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Hague-based court said.

Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka is suspected of crimes committed in 2013 and 2014 “in Bangui and other locations in the Central African Republic,” the ICC said in a statement.

One of the poorest countries in the world, the CAR spiralled into conflict in 2013 when president Francois Bozize was ousted by a rebel coalition called the Seleka, drawn largely from the Muslim minority.

The coup triggered a sectarian bloodbath between the Seleka and “anti-Balaka” forces, who were mainly Christian or animist.

Mokom was the leader of an “anti-Balaka” group.

In 2019, he became the country’s minister for disarmament and demobilisation.

The ICC has “found reasonable grounds” to suspect that Mokom, in his capacity as a “National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka”, was responsible for crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, persecution and “enforced disappearance”, the court said in its statement.

On the war crimes front, he is suspected of, among other things, “intentionally directing an attack against the civilian population” and an attack against humanitarian assistance personnel as well as enlisting fighters as young as 15.

“Mr Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka was surrendered to the International Criminal Court by the authorities of the Republic of Chad on account of an ICC warrant of arrest issued under seal on 10 December 2018,” the court said.

Late Monday the court tweeted that Mokom had arrived at the ICC Detention Centre in The Hague.

“The initial appearance of Mr Mokom … will take place in due course,” it said in its statement.

The ICC, which sits in The Hague, was created in 2002 to try individuals prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity or acts of genocide.

Two former anti-Balaka leaders, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom, are already on trial at the ICC.

An alleged Seleka leader will go on trial at the ICC in September to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.