France arrests Central Africa Republic war crimes suspect

French authorities have arrested a man suspected of committing war crimes in the Central African Republic and he will face extradition to The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona was the “senior leader” of the Anti-Balaka militia that carried out systematic attacks on the country’s Muslim population in 2013-2014.

Ngaissona, who denies wrongdoing, was elected in February to the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football despite objections from groups including Human Rights Watch. It named had him as a leader of the Anti-Balaka in a report in 2016.

The ICC said Ngaissona was suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, extermination, deportation, persecution, torture, attacking civilians, and recruiting child soldiers.

A chamber at the court “found reasonable grounds to believe Mr. Ngaissona is liable for having committed jointly with others… the above mentioned crimes.”

Ethnic and religious conflict has raged for years in Central African Republic. Christian Anti-Balaka militias have been fighting mainly Muslim Seleka rebels after the rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013. Thousands have died in the violence.

A court spokesman confirmed French authorities had carried out the arrest after the warrant was issued on Dec. 7. The ICC had formally requested Ngaissona’s transfer.


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