ICC Issues Warrant for Central African Republic Rebel Leader

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Noureddine Adam, the chief of the FPRC, the main Central African armed group, poses in Birao, northern Central African Republic, on December 20, 2017.
© 2017 ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP via Getty Images

Last week the International Criminal Court (ICC) made public an arrest warrant for a rebel leader in the Central African Republic, Noureddine Adam.

The warrant, which was previously sealed and dated back to January 2019, states that Adam is wanted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture. Adam’s warrant is consistent with the ICC seeking to target the highest-ranking rebel leaders responsible for atrocities in the Central African Republic.

Adam was the number two leader of the Seleka, an armed rebel group that tore its way through the Central African Republic in 2013. One of the first leaders to arrive in the capital, Bangui, when the rebels took the city, Adam became the Minister of Public Security, then later national security advisor. In 2014 he fled Bangui with the rest of the Seleka, and has since moved between Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

The arrest warrant points to allegations that Adam oversaw torture.

He oversaw Seleka fighters, and in 2013 when we met and presented him with documentation of serious crimes perpetrated by the Seleka, he had one response: blanket denial. He blamed the wanton killings of women and children on anyone but Seleka fighters, even denying we spoke with villagers fleeing an attack who had identified Seleka soldiers. Yet evidence indicates that soldiers under his command brought chaos to Bangui and the provinces.

After he fled Bangui, Adam took command of other armed groups, emerging as a prime example of how abusive leaders who enjoy impunity continue to commit crimes.

Another Seleka commander, Mahamat Said Abdel Kan, is also facing charges at the ICC. His trial is due to begin in September. But Said did not have the same level of command that Adam held during the Seleka’s reign of terror. Prominent leaders from the anti-balaka militia – who fought the Seleka for years – have also been sent to The Hague for trial. One such leader, Maxim Mokom, was surrendered to the ICC last March by Chad.

Adam is reported to be in Sudan, where he continues to evade justice. Sudan should follow Chad’s lead and surrender ICC suspects to the court. Bearing in mind, Sudan has not yet handed over to the court its own alleged war criminals: three ex-officials, including former president Omer al-Bashir. Still, Adam should become an example of justice, not impunity, in the Central African Republic.

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