Responding to the arrest of Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, a former armed group leader suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity who has now been surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the Chadian authorities, Alice Banens, a Legal Advisor at Amnesty International’s, said:
“Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka’s arrest is a crucial step forward in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic. He stands accused of using child soldiers and committing murder, torture and extermination in his role as leader of the anti-Balaka armed group. He must face trial.
“CAR authorities and the MINUSCA must step up their efforts to arrest other individuals wanted for war crimes by the ICC or the Special Criminal Court, many of whom remain in the country and have long evaded legal consequences for their actions.”
On 14 March 2022, Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka was surrendered to the ICC by the Chadian authorities and transferred to The Hague. He is suspected of criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the anti-Balaka armed group in CAR in 2013 and 2014, while he was the national coordinator of their operations.
Since 2014, the ICC has been investigating the crimes, which were allegedly committed amid the armed conflict that has raged in CAR since 2012. The SCC, a UN-backed hybrid court that began operating in 2018, is also able to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law committed in CAR since 2003.
The delay in executing arrest warrants, often due to practical difficulties or a lack of political will, remains one of the biggest obstacles to pursuing justice for crimes under international law in CAR. Amnesty International documented the issue in its briefing ‘One step forward, two steps back’, published in December 2021.