CAR, justice for the “forgotten human rights crisis”

Artwork of raised fists representing justice Artwork of raised fists representing justice Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

25 January 2021

The ICC have arrested a commander of the Seleka group on allegations of international crimes committed against civilians in the CAR.

On 24 January 2021, Mahamat Said Abdelkani (Mr. Said), a Seleka-rebel commander, was surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the authorities of the Central African Republic (CAR).

From March 2013 to January 2014, a domestic armed conflict was enduring on CAR territory between the Seleka, a coalition of armed groups predominantly composed of Muslims opposed to former President Francoise Bozizé, and the Anti-Balaka, a movement opposed to the Seleka and supportive of former president Bozizé. During this time, it is alleged that members of the Seleka conducted a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population in the capital of CAR, Bangui. According to Elise Keppler, an associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), Mr. Said is the first commander of the Seleka group to be brought towards the ICC.

Human Rights Watch have conducted extensive field research in the CAR during the armed conflict, coining it as “the forgotten human rights crisis” due to the lack of serious accountability of human rights abuses committed. HRW have confirmed the deliberate killing of more than 40 civilians, including numerous instances of pillage, summary executions, rape, torture, and the random shooting of civilians by Seleka forces. Moreover, HRW has confirmed the deliberate destruction of more than 34 rural villages, destroying more than 1,000 homes.

Mr. Said is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Bangui during this time. According to Keppler, Mr. Said’s case is an important step towards justice and “should send a powerful signal to those committing crimes at this very moment.” Nevertheless, Keppler has emphasised that this arrest should be followed by other cases against Seleka leaders, “some of whom are implicated in abuses still being committed today.”


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Author: Catherine Gregoire

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