Ex-Central African Republic militia commander before ICC

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A former Central African Republic militia leader accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity appeared before the International Criminal Court for the first time Tuesday.

Maxime Mokom, a one-time leader of an anti-Balaka armed group, appeared on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in CAR in 2013 and 2014.

Mokom, 43, was the leader of the self-proclaimed self-defence militias created in 2013 in reaction to the takeover of Bangui by the Seleka, a coalition of armed groups mainly composed of Muslims opposed to former president Francois Bozize.

Mokom, who was handed over by Chad to the ICC in The Hague on Monday, confirmed in French his identity and said he had been informed of the crimes of which he is accused.

He is suspected of, among other things, murder, extermination, deportation or forcible transfer of people, imprisonment, torture, persecution, cruel treatment and mutilation.

His lawyer said Mokom was mistreated during his transfer by the Chadian authorities, alleging he was fed only mouldy bread and sardines, that he had no bed and "practically a chamber pot" to relieve himself.

"So before (ICC prosecutor) Mr Khan applauds Chad with vigour for its sufficient cooperation, maybe he would like to satisfy himself next time that article 59 of the Rome statute has been respected," said lawyer Nicholas Kaufman, referring to the court's founding text.

Hearings at which the charges will be confirmed were set for January 31, 2023.

Violence by the Seleka and Anti-Balaka in CAR is said by the ICC to have left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Two former Central African warlords, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom, who led anti-Balaka militias, are currently on trial at the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The trial of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, an alleged Seleka commander, also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, will open in September.

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