Historic ruling: UN-backed court in CAR convicts three militiamen of crimes against humanity
A United States-backed Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday (31 October) convicted three militiamen of crimes against humanity committed during the civil war in 2013 and handed them jail terms from 20 years to life.
Issa Sallet Adoum, Ousman Yaouberms Rangia, and Tahir Mahamat were accused of taking part in an attack by the 3R armed group in May 2019 in which 46 villagers in northwest CAR were massacred. After its first-ever trial, the tribunal of local and international judges, sentenced Adoum to life and the others to 20 years. One of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world, CAR plunged into civil war in 2013 largely along sectarian lines. While violence fell back in intensity in 2018, as much as two-thirds of the country reportedly still lay in the hands of armed groups spawned by the conflict. The 3R — an acronym for Return, Reclamation, and Rehabilitation — is one of the most powerful of these militias, drawing its members mainly from the Fulani ethnic group, also called Peuls.
The special court’s mandate applies to war crimes and crimes against humanity dating back to 2003. The tribunal was set up in 2015 with UN backing but struggled for years to get going in the face of logistical hurdles, lack of money, and local hostility. After a faltering start caused by a lack of defense lawyers, its first trial opened on 25 April to a panel of national and international judges, with prosecutors from the CAR, the Democratic Republic of Congo, France, and Togo. In a statement, the court said the three convicted militiamen were guilty of murder, inhumane acts, and humiliating and degrading treatment. Victims of the 2019 atrocity hailed the court’s ruling, after years of despair about the prospects for justice in a country sapped by weak governance, poverty, and other ills.