The International Criminal Court (ICC) charges Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a former commander of the Seleka coalition with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Bangui the capital of the Central African Republic in 2012-2013.
On Monday 26th of September, the International Criminal Court in the Hague began the trial of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, a former police commander in the Central African Republic (CAR). The ICC charges were the following: murder, rape, torture, and prosecution against people that would support President Francois Bozize.
“I plead not guilty to all charges and all situations,” Said told the judges.
Mahamat Said on trial (Source: ICC)
Mahamat Said on trial opening at the International Criminal Court, in the Hague.
All these charges were committed as violent clashes took place between the Seleka coalition, a Muslim group, and Anti-balaka, a Christian alliance in Bangui. These acts of violence developed from late 2012 to 2013 when the Seleka militia gathered 20,000 supporters to advance in the capital and attack police stations and military bases.
The clashes were never peacefully resolved
“Women and girls were raped and gang-raped in front of their children or parents; some died as a result of their injuries,” the arrest warrant for Mr. Said stated.
The target of the attacks were also males that would support the Christian political group. The ones who were trying to flee were shot and killed.
The prosecution found Said guilty of ordering arrests of men that would look like spies or threats to the Seleka militia. He was in charge of a prison where the civilians would be brought to confess and held hostage in inhumane conditions until killed. Inside the prison, they would be beaten, tortured, or burned, and have their ears pulled.
“Prisoners were held in small, dark, crowded cells with only a bucket as a toilet and little or no food, causing detainees to drink their own urine”, the ICC prosecution statement describes.
Mahamat Said was known to keep the prisoners for several hours in certain stressful positions that would become so painful they would ask to be killed. The victims had their legs and arms tied in the back, with the elbows touching their feet. This position is called “arbatacha”.
Mr. Said described this position as being “the most effective to obtain confessions,” the arrest statement claimed.
The ex-commander is the first member of the Seleka group to go on trial at the ICC, as the court charged leaders of both Seleka and Anti-balaka groups with crimes against humanity.
“If the ICC leans on the courts in CAR, I would say that it can contribute something to the return of peace, ” stated Rochefort Danguene, a Central African law graduate for the Organisation of World Peace. He further says that the ICC should collaborate with the national-level justice to put an end of the tragic horrors that affected so many people. Nevertheless, the ICC cannot influence the war politics, but it can provide justice and legitimacy in a country where internet access is non-existent.
The prosecution represented by Karim Khan told the judges that Said “actively hunted civilians” and imprisoned them being aware of “what a nightmare awaited them in his control”.
Mike Cole, the ICC representative in CAR, claimed that the trial is putting victims “at the heart of the issue”, given the horrors and the ongoing civil war, helping the country to gain true justice for the victims.
The trial still continues.