ICC says Central African Republic war crimes suspect surrendered

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AMSTERDAM, March 16 (Reuters) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday said the former Central African Republic’s militia leader Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka had been surrendered to the court by the authorities of Chad for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Mokom, a national coordinator of the so-called anti-balaka militias, is accused of crimes against the Muslim civilian population in the Central African Republic (CAR), including murder, torture, extermination and the use of child soldiers.

CAR 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, and several of the former leaders of both factions face charges at the ICC.

The ICC in 2018 issued an arrest warrant for Mokom, as it said there was reasonable grounds to believe he was responsible as coordinator of anti-balaka militias for crimes committed against Muslim civilians during attacks throughout the country between at least September 2013 and December 2014.

Two other anti-balaka leaders are already on trial at the court in The Hague, while one Seleka leader is in custody awaiting trial.

Soldiers in Chad were central to an African peacekeeping mission deployed to CAR after the 2013 rebellion that toppled the president. Chad withdrew its forces the following year after they were accused by some in CAR of siding with mainly Muslim rebels.

Reporting by Bart Meijer and Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Grant McCool