The first day of the inaugural trial of a court formed to prosecute war crimes in the Central African Republic‘s long-running conflict was postponed on Tuesday to April 25 after counsel for the defendants boycotted the proceedings.
The trial on War Crimes was poised to hold on Tuesday seven years after it was established.
The case stems from a massacre of 46 residents in the northern villages of Koundjili and Lemouna in May 2019, which authorities claim was carried out by the 3R rebel organization. War crimes and crimes against humanity have been filed against three members of the organisation.
The counsel representing the defendants did not appear on Tuesday for an unknown reason. According to Joseph Bindoumi, president of the Central African League for Human Rights, the incident stemmed from a disagreement over the treatment of human rights defenders.
The case is being heard before the Special Criminal Court, which was established in 2015 to try war crimes. It is regarded as a watershed moment for the Central African Republic, where a decade-long conflict between government forces and rebels has displaced over one million people.
Massive crimes prompted UN peacekeepers and forces from Russia, France, and Rwanda to intervene. Human rights organizations, on the other hand, claim that crimes against civilians are prevalent, often unrecorded, and carried out with impunity.
The first trial signals “a better tomorrow for the victims” who can finally see the accused tried, the court’s spokesman Gervais Opportun Bodagay told reporters.
Separately, at least three Central African Republic militia leaders are facing charges of crimes committed in the country at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Central African Republic, which is rich in gold and diamonds, has been wracked by bloodshed since 2013, when Muslim Selaka rebels deposed then-president Francois Bozize, triggering retaliation from militias.
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