23 November 2018

Central African Republic: CAR War Crimes Suspect 'Rambo' Protests Rough Treatment

Photo: ICC-CPI
Alfred Yekatom during his initial appearance before the International Criminal Court on 23 November, 2018.

A former militia leader from the Central African Republic has appeared at the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. Alfred Yekatom, also known as Rambo, said he was tortured before being sent to The Hague.

A lawyer for former militia leader Alfred Yekatom, who appeared before judges at the International Criminal Court on Friday for the first time, claimed his client had been beaten after his arrest.

Prosecutors at the court claim that 43-year-old Yekatom, also known by the nickname Rambo or Colonel Rambo, is responsible for crimes that include murder, torture, mutilation and the use of child soldiers. Yekatom was extradited to The Hague last Saturday after his initial detention by local forces in the CAR.

The crimes he is charged with took place between December 2013 and August 2014, as a civil war raged in the Central African Republic (CAR). The country is still wracked by conflict between the militias and army.

At the opening, defense lawyer Xavier-Jean Keita told presiding Judge Antoine Mindua that Yekatom had been beaten with a Kalashnikov rifle butt. He also said Yekatom had been held illegally by local forces, before being transferred to The Hague.

"His fundamental rights were violated," Keita said.

CAR has been dogged by interethnic and interreligious violence since predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui, in 2013. Yekatom led the mainly Christian anti-Balaka group, which fought Seleka.

Yekatom, who became an MP in 2016, was arrested last month after firing gunshots in parliament.

The Hague court set April 30 as the date for a hearing at which judges will hear prosecution evidence and decide whether to proceed with the case.

rc/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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