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CAR: Arrest warrant issued for ex-president François Bozizé

Francois Bozize speaks to the media, in front of a map of the country with the colors of its flag, at the presidential palace in Bangui, CAR on Jan. 8, 2013.   -  
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Ben Curtis/AP

Central African Republic

A UN-backed court in the Central African Republic issued an international arrest warrant Tuesday (Apr. 30) for the country’s exiled former President François Bozizé.

Bozizé is wanted for human rights abuses. The warrant covers crimes from 2009 to 2013 by the presidential guard and other security forces,a spokesperson for the Special Criminal Court said.

Bozizé currently lives in exile in Guinea Bissau. The country's President Umaro Sissoco Embaló told the Associated Press news agency that he had not received any request from Bangui about the arrest warrant, and that his country’s laws do not allow for extradition.

“It’s a great day for us victims to learn that François Bozizé is the target of an international arrest warrant,” said Audrey Yamalé, a member of the Association of Victims of the 2013 Crisis. “But let’s not stop there. We would like Guinea Bissau to cooperate in his extradition.”

Ibrahim Nour, whose father was tortured and killed in the infamous Bossembélé prison, welcomed the arrest warrant.

“Justice may be slow, but it will eventually catch up with the executioners. That’s why I welcome the arrest warrant for the men who killed my father, and for whom we are waiting for explanations so that we can begin to mourn,” Nour said.

According to a 2021 report by Amnesty International, dozens suspected of criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity remain at large despite warrants issued by the court.

One-fifth of the population displaced

The Special Criminal Court was set up in the capital, Bangui, to try war crimes and other human rights abuses committed during the coups and violence that the country has experienced since 2003.

Bozizé seized power in a coup in 2003, and was ousted by rebels a decade later. That led to a civil war marked by sectarian violence atrocities and the exploitation of children as soldiers.

About 10,000 children are still fighting alongside armed groups in Central African Republic more than a decade after civil war broke out, the government said earlier this year.

The U.N., which has a peacekeeping mission in the country, estimates the fighting killed thousands and displaced over a million people, or one-fifth of the population. 

In 2019, a peace deal was reached between the government and 14 armed groups, but fighting continues.

Patryk Labuda, an expert in international criminal law at the Polish Academy of Sciences, told the AP that the warrant issued Tuesday sends a message about the court’s intention to prosecute wrongdoing by the state.

“This arrest warrant is certainly one of the most high profile developments in the 5 years the court has operated,” Labuda said.

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