from OMAN MBIKO in Bangui, Central African Republic
BANGUI, (CAJ News) – TWO Central African Republic (CAR) rebel leaders are going on trial for crimes committed in the conflict since 2012.
The trial on Tuesday is the first before the International Criminal Court (ICC) since the conflict.
Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona and Alfred Yékatom are the highest ranking anti-balaka leaders to face trial.
They are leaders of the Christian militias called anti-balaka.
These militants engaged in brutal attacks with the Muslim Seleka factions and whoever they perceived as supporting their enemies.
Civilians were caught in the middle of the crisis that emanated from the overthrow of President François Bozizé by the Seleka leaders.
Yékatom faces 21 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, while Ngaïssona faces 32 counts of these crimes.
Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the opening of the Yékatom and Ngaïssona trial was a milestone for justice for victims of brutal crimes committed in the CAR’s most recent conflict.
The country has suffered a new wave of attacks in the past two months after presidential elections.
“Fair, credible trials of atrocities are key for the country to break these cycles,” Keppler said.
A new rebel coalition has carried out multiple attacks, leaving several peacekeepers dead and leading to further mass civilian displacement.
The coalition consists of both anti-balaka and Seleka factions.
More than 1 400 people are participants in the trial of Yékatom and Ngaïssona, who are represented by two sets of lawyers.
– CAJ News