The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Sunday said it had taken into custody a former Central African Republic commander of the “Seleka” faction suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In a statement the court said Mahamat Said Abdel Kain had surrendered to the court on Sunday and had been arrested under a warrant issued under seal on January 7 2019, relating to alleged crimes from 2013.
A date for his initial appearance in The Hague has not yet been set.
The arrest comes against the backdrop of a state of emergency in the Central African Republic, with fighting between the country’s army, backed by UN, Russian and Rwandan troops, and rebels seeking to overturn a December 27 vote in which President Faustin-Archange Touadera was declared the winner.
A judge for the court said there was reasonable grounds to believe that Said, 50, was responsible for crimes including torture, persecutions, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts.
The Central African Republic has been mired in violence since a coalition of mostly northern and predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka, or “alliance” in the Sango language, seized power in March 2013. Their brutal rule gave rise to the opposing “anti-balaka” Christian militias, several of whose former leaders also face charges at the ICC.
“I welcome today’s transfer of the suspect, Mr Mahamat Saïd Abdel Kani … to face justice for his alleged crimes as charged before the ICC,” said prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in a statement.
“As I have previously stated, my office will relentlessly pursue justice for the victims of atrocities in the Central African Republic … irrespective of which side of the conflict they may be on.”