The third case from the Central African Republic II situation kicked off at the International Criminal Court on March 22, 2022 with the initial appearance of Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka before Pre-Trial Chamber II for verification of his identity.
The procedure was also to ensure the suspect, referred to in court documents as “Mr Mokom”, was clearly informed of the crimes he is alleged to have committed, and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC in a language he fully understands and speaks, which in this case is Sango.
Mokom, a former leader of the Anti-Balaka militia, is suspected of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) between at least December 5, 2013, and at least December 2014 in various locations, including Bangui, Bossangoa, the Lobaye Prefecture, Yaloké, Gaga, Bossemptélé, Boda, Carnot, and Berberati.
He is suspected of committing the crimes jointly with others and/or through others in furtherance of a policy to target the Muslim population and others perceived to support the Séléka or to be “foreigners” in Bangui and western CAR.
The other two cases from the CAR II situation are against former Anti-Balaka movement leaders Alfred Rombhot Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, and former Séléka leader Mahamat Said Abdel Kani.
The hearing of Mokom’s suit before Pre-Trial Chamber II’s Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (presiding), Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Tomoko Akane was held in the presence of Deputy ICC Prosecutor Mame Mandiaye Niang and Nicholas Kaufman, Mokom’s legal representative.
The opening of the confirmation of charges hearing was provisionally scheduled for January 31, 2023, during which the pre-trial chamber will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the suspect committed each of the crimes charged. If the charges are confirmed, the case will be transferred to a trial chamber for subsequent proceedings.
On Monday, March 14, 2022, the Chadian authorities handed Mokom to the ICC on account of an outstanding warrant of arrest issued under seal on December 10, 2018.
The case has resulted from a 2013 armed conflict between the Séléka – a coalition of armed groups predominantly composed of Muslims opposed to then CAR President François Bozizé – and the Anti-Balaka – a movement opposed to the Séléka and supportive of Bozizé.
While issuing the arrest warrant, Pre-Trial Chamber II said it had found reasonable grounds to believe that Mokom, in his capacity as a National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka, was responsible for crimes against humanity consisting in (attempted) murder; extermination; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty; torture; persecution; enforced disappearance; and other inhumane acts.
On war crimes, he is suspected of (attempted) murder; torture; cruel treatment; mutilation; intentionally directing an attack against the civilian population; intentionally directing an attack against personnel, installations, material, units, or vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance; intentionally directing an attack against buildings dedicated to religion, pillaging, enlistment of children under the age of 15 years and their use to participate actively in hostilities; displacement of the civilian population; and destroying or seizing the property of an adversary.
On May 30, 2014 the Central African Republic referred the situation in its territory since August 1, 2012 to the ICC. Pre-Trial Chamber II joined the Yekatom and Ngaïssona cases on February 20, 2019. The charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were partially confirmed against the two on December 11, 2019. Their trial opened on February 16, 2021 before Trial Chamber V and is currently going on, with the prosecution presenting its evidence and the testimony of its witnesses.
Pre-Trial Chamber II partially confirmed the charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes brought against Said Abdel Kani on December 9, 2021 after a hearing from October 12-14, 2021. The trial is scheduled to open on September 26, 2022 before Trial Chamber VI.