A special tribunal sponsored by the United Nations has issued an international arrest warrant against the former president of the Central African Republic, François Bozizé, as part of an investigation into his responsibility for possible crimes against humanity committed by soldiers in a prison between 2009 and 2013.

Mr. Bozizé, 77, who seized power in 2003 in a coup before being overthrown ten years later by rebels and who is today at the head of the main Central African rebellion, lives in exile in Guinea-Bissau since March 2023.

The international arrest warrant dates from February 27, specifies in a press release the Special Criminal Court (CPS), a hybrid jurisdiction composed in Bangui of Central African and foreign magistrates, responsible for the case of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in the Central African Republic, a country which has experienced alternating civil wars and authoritarian regimes since its independence from France in 1960.

“Very encouraging step”

Judges of the SCC issued this warrant as part of an “investigation” into possible “crimes against humanity” by Mr. Bozizé’s presidential guard, between February 2009 and March 2013, in “a civil prison”. and a “military training center” in Bossembélé, in the center of the country.

The judges concluded that “the existence of serious and consistent evidence” against Mr. Bozizé, “likely to incur criminal liability”, “in his capacity as hierarchical superior and military leader”.

These alleged crimes, committed in the Bossembélé prison and military camp by elements of Mr. Bozizé’s praetorian guard as well as “other security services”, concern in particular “murders”, “forced disappearances”, “torture”, “rape” and “other inhumane acts”, according to the SPC, created in 2015 with the sponsorship of the UN, which calls for “cooperation from Guinea-Bissau, through Interpol » to “arrest” and hand over “the suspect” to the CPS in the Central African Republic.

This international mandate “constitutes a very encouraging step in the quest for justice for the victims of numerous crimes committed in the Central African Republic,” writes Amnesty International in a press release. “However, the SPC will only be able to fulfill its role of investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the numerous atrocities (…) if (…) all States cooperate fully,” adds the NGO which urges “the authorities of Guinea-Bissau » to arrest and hand over “without delay” Mr. Bozizé “to the Central African authorities with a view to his appearance before the SCC”.

Forced labor for life

The overthrow of Mr. Bozizé in 2013 by a coalition of predominantly Muslim rebels, the Séléka, triggered one of the most terrible civil wars in the history of this central African country, among the poorest in the world, with massacres of civilians mainly. Mr. Bozizé had organized the creation of militias dominated by Christians and animists, the anti-balakas, to try to regain power and thousands of civilians had been the main victims of massacres perpetrated by both camps.

In 2018, the UN accused the ex-Séléka and the anti-balaka of numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity.

At the end of 2020, Mr. Bozizé took the head of a new rebel alliance, the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), which had threatened the power of President Faustin Archange Touadéra before Moscow sent hundreds of paramilitaries from the private company Wagner does not allow the authorities to push them far from Bangui. The former putschist then returned to exile, to neighboring Chad, before Guinea-Bissau.

He was sentenced on September 22, 2022 by a Central African court to forced labor for life, including for “conspiracy” and “rebellion” as head of the CPC.

Different armed groups, rebels or simply predators, continue their guerrilla warfare today in the Central African Republic, against the Russian army and paramilitaries. Civilians are once again the main victims of both camps accused of crimes and abuses by the UN and international NGOs.