By Susan Kendi
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is requesting to amend the charges against Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona to include rape and to add two additional charges, rape as a war crime and sexual slavery, against Alfred Rombhot Yekatom.
Fatou Bensouda is additionally seeking to correct the confirmed count 40 against Ngaïssona, clarifying that this charge relates to rape as a crime against humanity and not as a war crime.
In the revision of charges against Ngaïssona, Bensouda wants the court to include and confirm additional evidence from a second victim of rape in the document containing the charges. This is after the prosecution obtained a detailed statement from the victim that meets the threshold for confirmation of the charge.
In the past after examination of facts and circumstances, the Pre-Trial Chamber II found that the evidence supporting the second instance did not meet the required standards of evidence.
In the March 31, 2020 filing, the prosecution argues that the statement they acquired between February 12 and 14, 2020 is relevant as it provides a first-hand record of the rape linked to the Anti-Balaka December 5, 2013 attack on Bossangoa.
The amendment of Ngaïssona’s charges before the start of his trial will not harm his defence, the Prosecution argues, but aid the accused to understand the scope of the charges against him.
In the case against Yekatom, the prosecution said that the two charges of rape as a war crime and sexual slavery fall within the scope of the confirmed charges. Bensouda added that they will reveal supporting evidence to the charges once the necessary security measures are in place.
The Government of the Central African Republic referred this second situation to the ICC prosecutor on May 30, 2014. The referral involved alleged crimes committed by the Seleka and Anti-Balaka leading to the deaths of thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced.
Four months later, Fatou Bensouda opened an investigation in the country.
The Central African Republic has had two referrals. The ICC opened the first investigation in 2007 looking into the crimes committed in CAR between October 2002 and March 2003.The investigation paved way for a case against Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo who was later acquitted. The second investigation was opened in September 2014 with respect to crimes allegedly committed since 2012 bringing charges against Yekatom and Ngaïssona.
The chamber issued an arrest warrant against Yekatom on November 11, 2018, he was then surrendered to the Court of last resort by the Central African Republic authorities and appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II on November 23, 2018.
The court also issued an arrest warrant against Ngaïssona in December 2018. He was transferred to The Hague by French authorities a month later, following the completion of national proceedings in France. He then appeared before the ICC on January 25, 2019.
The Pre-trial Chamber II joined the two cases against Yekatom and Ngaïssona to avoid “the duplication of evidence, inconsistency in the presentation and assessment of evidence, undue impact on witnesses and victims, and unnecessary expense.”
The confirmation hearing was held on September 19, 2019 after a postponement upon prosecution’s request asking for additional time to put in place measures to protect witnesses and victims.
Both Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona are alleged to be responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and August 2014.
The Anti-Balaka militia are alleged to have targeted the Muslim civilian population as a form of vengeance for the crimes committed by the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim militia group.