Central African Republic ex-football boss and ‘Rambo’ mililiaman deny war crimes at ICC
A former top Central African Republic football official and a militiaman nicknamed Rambo pleaded not guilty to war crimes charges as their trial began on Tuesday at the International Criminal Court.
Ex-sports minister Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona was allegedly a senior leader of mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias as the country slid into civil war in 2013, while Alfred Yekatom, an MP, is accused of commanding them on the ground.
The anti-Balaka, which means anti-machete, formed as vigilante self-defence groups after mainly Muslim rebels called the Seleka stormed the capital and removed then-president Francois Bozize, a Christian.
“I don’t recognise myself in the charges brought against me, I am not guilty,” Ngaissona, 53, speaking through a coronavirus mask, told the court in The Hague when asked by the chief judge to enter a plea.
Yekatom, 46, gave a similar response, saying: “I categorically state that these counts are not correct. I reject all the charges that you laid against me.”
The trial comes against a backdrop of continuing unrest in the CAR, with rebels waging an offensive against the government of current President Faustin Archange Touadera.
‘Important day for justice’
The two men face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture, mutilation, persecution and the conscription of child soldiers from 2013 to 2014.
Ngaissona also faces charges of rape and attempted rape.
“This day is an important day for justice,” prosecutor Kweku Vanderpuye told the court.
“The crimes that are charged in this case… are shocking to the conscience and so arresting in scale, that they transgress the very nature of our humanity.”…..read more