ICC: Former Central African Republic militia leader arrested

December 12, 2018 - 8:36 am

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A former senior leader of a Central African Republic militia, who also is his country's top soccer official, was arrested Wednesday in France on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder and torture.

The court gave no further details of Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona's arrest or what he was doing in France. He is expected to be transferred to the court's detention center in The Hague once French authorities have completed legal formalities.

The court said in a statement that Ngaissona was the most senior leader and "National General Coordinator" of the anti-Balaka, a mainly Christian militia.

The group is accused of targeting Muslims in interreligious and intercommunal fighting that broke out in 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital, Bangui. The violence left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

Ngaissona is allegedly responsible for crimes committed in the west of Central African Republic for about a year starting around December 2013.

The court said that a panel of judges that reviewed evidence and issued the arrest warrant "found reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Ngaissona is liable" for involvement in crimes including murder, extermination, enforced disappearances, using child soldiers and attacking humanitarian aid workers.

Another anti-Balaka leader, Alfred Yekatom, was sent to the ICC last month to face justice.

Ngaissona is head of his country's national soccer federation. In February, he was elected to the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football, the governing body for soccer on the continent.

The former French colony's government asked the ICC in May 2014 to investigate crimes allegedly committed by both the Seleka and the anti-Balaka. So far, no Seleka fighters have been publicly targeted by the court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

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