Former President of Central African Republic Faces Arrest Warrant for Alleged Crimes against Humanity

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of François Bozizé, the former president of the Central African Republic, by a UN-backed court, alleging potential crimes against humanity by the country’s military from 2009 to 2013. The special criminal court (CPS) in Bangui, comprising Central African and foreign judges, detailed accusations including murder, enforced disappearance, torture, and rape. Bozizé, ousted in 2013 after seizing power in 2003, currently leads the main rebellion from exile in Guinea-Bissau. Despite being issued in February, the warrant was only recently disclosed, with the CPS urging Guinea-Bissau to cooperate in Bozizé’s extradition.

The court, established in 2015 with UN sponsorship, investigates war crimes dating back to 2003 in a country plagued by civil conflicts and authoritarian regimes since independence. Allegations against Bozizé’s presidential guard from 2009 to 2013 are under scrutiny, particularly regarding a civilian prison and a military training facility in Bossembélé.

Judges found compelling evidence implicating Bozizé as a senior military figure and hierarchical superior, prompting Amnesty International to commend the warrant as a step towards justice. Bozizé’s ousting by a predominantly Muslim armed coalition in 2013 initiated a civil war, with Bozizé organizing predominantly Christian and animist militias, the anti-Balakas, in an attempt to regain power. Both sides have faced accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the UN.

Though conflict intensity waned after 2018, sporadic violence persists in a deeply impoverished nation. Bozizé currently leads the Coalition of Patriots for Change, formed in 2020 to oust his successor, Touadéra, who enlisted Russian support to repel insurgents. Bozizé was sentenced in absentia to lifelong forced labor in September for conspiracy, rebellion, and murder charges.