The confirmation of charges hearing for Central African Republic (CAR) national Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in his country, has been postponed indefinitely.
The International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II stated that the hearing could not commence on January 31, 2023, as earlier scheduled, due to delays resulting from litigation relating to the appointment of Mokom’s counsel.
The court allowed the duty counsel, Gregory Townsend, to hand over all matters related to the proceedings to the newly appointed permanent counsel for Mokom, Philippe Larochelle, who was named on January 23, 2023. It requested the Registry to maintain Townsend for two weeks to allow for a smooth transition.
On December 21, 2022, the prosecution requested the chamber to schedule a status conference on December 16, 2023, but Townsend objected, saying it was premature in view of the ongoing processes regarding the appointment of a permanent defence counsel. He asked that the status conference be held at the earliest date after the transition period. The court ordered the status conference convened on February 7, 2023.
On March 25, 2022, the pre-trial chamber revoked the appointment of Nicholas Kaufman as Mokom’s counsel due to a conflict of interest and, as a result, Townsend was appointed as duty counsel on April 4, 2022.
Mokom appealed the decision but the Appeals Chamber confirmed by majority the removal of Kaufman on December 19, 2022, and instructed the Registry to maintain Townsend as duty counsel for two weeks pending the appointment of a permanent counsel, which was scheduled to be completed by January 6, 2023.
Mokom is a former leader of the Anti-Balaka militia suspected of involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the CAR between December 5, 2013, and December 2014 in various locations, including Bangui, Bossangoa, the Lobaye Prefecture, Yaloké, Gaga, Bossemptélé, Boda, Carnot, and Berberati.
He is suspected of acting 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.
You Might Also Like: Ethiopia under pressure to act on human rights abuses
Mokom is the latest suspect to be brought before the ICC in connection with the CAR II situation. The other two cases, which are at the trial stage, are against former Anti-Balaka movement leaders Alfred Rombhot Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, and former Séléka leader Mahamat Said Abdel Kani.
The Chadian authorities handed Mokom to the ICC on March 14, 2022, on account of an outstanding warrant of arrest issued under seal on December 10, 2018.
The case resulted from an armed conflict in 2013 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.
The confirmation of charges hearing was provisionally scheduled to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support claims that Mokom committed each of the crimes he is accused of. If the charges are confirmed the case will be transferred to a trial chamber.