Three members of the Central African armed group 3R (Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation) were sentenced to prison Monday.
The sentences range from 20 years to life for "crimes against humanity" in a first verdict by the Special Criminal Court (SCC), a hybrid court of local and international judges.
Issa Sallet Adoum, Ousman Yaouba and Tahir Mahamat accused of the May 21rst, 2019 massacre of 46 civilians in villages in the northwest, were found guilty of, among other things, "murder", "inhumane acts" and "humiliating and degrading treatment".
The first was sentenced to life and the other two to 20 years in prison.
The PSC was created in 2015 by the government under the sponsorship of the UN to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003 and this first verdict was particularly expected.
It opened its trial on April 25th and the prosecution had requested life imprisonment for the three defendants in mid-August.
Issa Sallet Adoum was also convicted in his "capacity as a military commander" for "rapes committed by his subordinates constituting" "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes," the SCC statement said.
Mahamat Tahir, one of the three defendants who claims his innocence, appeared at the hearing weakened on a stretcher after having been on a death strike for 21 days, AFP journalists noted. The defendants have three days to appeal, according to the court, which acquitted them of the charge of "torture as a war crime".
The Central African Republic, the second least developed country in the world according to the UN, has been the scene of a civil war since 2013, very deadly in its early years but has decreased in intensity since 2018.
In the early years, its pitted militias with a Muslim majority united in the Séléka alliance against others - the anti-balakas - dominated by Christians and animists, with the UN accusing both sides of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The civil war continues today between armed rebel groups, sometimes from the Séléka and anti-balaka, and the army of President Faustin Archange Touadéra, backed by hundreds of Russian paramilitaries.