The International Criminal Court (ICC) has adjourned the trial of two former militia leaders, Alfred Yékatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, in the Central African Republic (CAR) to February 16.
The trials had initially been schdeuled to start on Thursday.
The duo, who were both former alleged leaders of the anti-Balaka militia, are facing a joint 53 counts of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ngaïssona, who faces 32 counts and Yékatom, 21 counts, are the highest ranking anti-balaka leaders to face trial, and the first at the ICC.
The anti-balaka rebels are Christian militias who engaged in brutal tit-for-tat attacks with the Muslim Seleka following a coup in 2012, leaving civilians caught in the middle.
The Muslim Seleka rebels had ousted the Central African Republic president, François Bozizé, and seized power through a campaign of violence and terror in 2012. In late 2013, Christian and animist militias known as anti-balaka began to organize counterattacks against the Seleka.
Thousands died in the clashes and the United Nations (UN) said more than a million people were forced to flee their homes.
Yékatom and Ngaïssona will be tried jointly for alleged crimes which include intentionally directing an attack against civilian population.
Ngaïssona, the self-declared political coordinator of anti-Balaka forces, has previously denied all the charges. In this role, the ICC says he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Yékatom, known as “Rombhot”, on November 11, 2018. Yekatom, a member of CAR parliament at the time was arrested on November 17, 2018 by CAR authorities and transferred to the ICC.
The ICC says Yekatom commanded a group of about 3,000 members operating within the anti-balaka movement.
Less than a month later, on December 7, 2018, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ngaïssona and he was arrested in France December 12, 2018 and transferred to the ICC on January 23, 2019.
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