Central African Republic militia leader appears at ICC

Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, left, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, center, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
ICC's prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, right, and deputy prosecutor James Stewart, center, are seen as Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
ICC's prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, left, waits for Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, to aappear before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, is flanked by security guards as he appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)
Alfred Yekatom, a Central African Republic lawmaker and militia leader who goes by the nickname Rambo, appears before the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday Nov. 23, 2018. Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during fighting in his country's bitter conflict. Yekatom has told the International Criminal Court that he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in his country's parliament. (Piroschka van de Wouw, pool photo via AP)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Central African Republic militia leader and lawmaker who goes by the nickname Rambo told the International Criminal Court on Friday he was beaten and tortured after his arrest late last month in parliament.

Prosecutors at the global court allege that 43-year-old Alfred Yekatom is responsible for crimes including murder, torture and using child soldiers during his country's bitter conflict. He allegedly commanded some 3,000 fighters in a predominantly Christian militia that killed Muslims in attacks between December 2013 and August 2014 in and around the capital, Bangui.

At his first appearance before ICC judges since his transfer to the Netherlands over the weekend, Yekatom confirmed his name, age and that he had read the charges in his arrest warrant. He wasn't required to enter a plea at the 35-minute hearing.

Defense lawyer Xavier-Jean Keita told Presiding Judge Antoine Mindua that Yekatom says he was beaten with a Kalashnikov rifle butt after he was arrested last month after firing gunshots in parliament. Keita also said Yekatom was held illegally following his arrest and before he was put on a plane to The Hague, where the court is based.

"His fundamental rights were violated," Keita said.

Mindua set April 30 as the date for a hearing at which judges will listen to prosecution evidence before considering whether to confirm the charges against Yekatom and order him to stand trial.

The Central African Republic has been plagued by interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the capital and mainly Christian anti-Balaka militias fought back. The violence left thousands of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The government asked the ICC in May 2014 to investigate crimes allegedly committed by both the Seleka and the anti-Balaka. So far, no Seleka fighters have been publicly targeted by the court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda.

Yekatom's arrest warrant says he used "violent and inflammatory rhetoric" and ordered his forces to "kill Selekas and Muslims" and destroy their homes as well as a mosque.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the case against Yekatom.

Elise Keppler, associate director of the group's International Justice Program, said it "provides a chance for the International Criminal Court to do a more effective job in delivering justice for atrocities" in Central African Republic. She said the charges "should be the first among more involving crimes committed by all sides in the Central African Republic."

____

Hippolyte Marboua in Bangui, Central African Republic contributed.

People also read these

Canadian judge denies bail to alleged Yahoo hacker

Apr 11, 2017

A judge has denied bail to a Canadian man accused in a massive hack of Yahoo emails

Syrian refugees name baby for Canadian PM Justin...

May 8, 2017

A Syrian refugee couple have named their new baby after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to...

Pastor freed from North Korean prison arrives...

Aug 13, 2017

A Canadian pastor who was imprisoned for more than two years in North Korea has arrived back home

Family freed returns to Canada, says 1 child...

Oct 14, 2017

Former Canadian hostage Joshua Boyle says the Haqqani network in Afghanistan killed his infant...

Ex-hostages back in Canada after harrowing raid...

Oct 14, 2017

A couple held hostage for five years by a Taliban-linked extremist network in Afghanistan is safely...

Sign up now!