Central African Republic: ICC - Former CAR Militia Leader Denies War Crimes Charges

Maxime Mokom is accused of crimes against humanity for atrocities committed against Muslim civilians in the Central African Republic. ICC judges are determining whether he should stand trial.

An ex-militia leader and former government minister in the Central African Republic (CAR), Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, denied any involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes during a crucial pretrial hearing held at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday.

Prosecutors accuse Mokom of coordinating the operations of the so-called anti-Balaka militia, a mainly Christian group that fought against the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group.

Thousands of people were killed in the fighting and hundreds of thousands were displaced from 2013 to 2014.

Mokom denies involvement in crimes

"I absolutely deny having participated in any plans that involved crimes that have been charged," Mokom told judges in the ICC courtroom in The Hague.

He said he returned to CAR from Congo in February 2014 and "he dedicated his return to the search for peace, rather than to engage in war."

Mokom faces several charges, including murder, rape, extermination, deportation, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts that were allegedly carried out by the militias that he coordinated.

The hearing on Tuesday was to determine whether the available evidence is sufficient to proceed with a formal trial. Mokom was not required to enter a plea.

Prosecutors said Mokom was responsible for revenge attacks as one of the leaders of the anti-Balaka, which supported ousted President Francois Bozize.

Mokom gave "logistical support for military operations... including by providing funds, weapons, medication and ammunition," they said.

Prosecutors added: "The attacks were widespread and systematic. The message to the Muslim population was clear: leave CAR or die."

Prosecutor Mame Mandiaye Niang said, "He was the one who looked for ammunition, coordinated the deployment of anti-Balaka in the prefectures and oversaw the attacks."

Attacks on Muslim civilians

Mokom is the fourth suspect from the long-running conflict in the country to appear before judges at the global court.

Violence has plagued CAR since 2013 when Seleka rebels forced Bozize from office. The anti-Balaka militia later fought back, also targeting civilians and sending most of the Muslim residents of the capital, Bangui, fleeing in fear.

More than 100,000 Muslim civilians had to flee Bangui across the border to neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Anti-Balaka attacks continued on Muslim civilians even after Seleka forces retreated from Bangui, until at least December 2014.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

AllAfrica publishes around 500 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.