Africa Rights Watch

ICC Drops 20 Charges of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Against Central African Republic Leader

By: Christina Bradic, Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

The Hague, Netherlands – On October 16, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped war crime charges against Maxime Jeoffroy Eli Mokom Gawaka, of the Central African Republic. This is only the third time in the history of the court that an ICC prosecutor has dropped a criminal case.

Maxim Mokom in October 2020, when he was Minister of Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR) in the Central African Republic | Photo courtesy of Justice Info, Minusca

On March 14, 2022, Mokom was arrested in Chad. Authorities subsequently surrendered him to the ICC. Prior to dropping his case, Mokom was facing twenty charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from actions in 2013 and 2014 when Mokom was the National Coordinator of Operations of the Anti-Balaka. Charges included murder, torture, extermination, deportation, and persecution.

In the Central African Republic in 2013, President Francois Bozize was ousted during a coup led by Seleka, an alliance of predominantly Muslim armed rebel groups. In response, Anti-Balaka, an alliance of predominantly Christian militia groups, executed reprisal attacks, including ones targeting Muslim civilians. Violence between the two groups escalated. By mid-May of 2014, it was estimated that thousands of people were killed and more than 750,000 people, majority Muslim, were forcibly displaced. During this time, Mokom, as a leader of Anti-Balaka, was suspected of the war crimes of directing attacks on civilian populations, an attack on humanitarian assistance personnel, and enlisting children as fighters.

The Prosecutor of the ICC informed the judge last week that with the available evidence and changed witness and testimonial availability, there is no longer “reasonable prospect of conviction.”

Mokom has continually denied the court’s charges and any involvement in attacks on Muslim civilians. In a statement he said that he is, “dedicated to the search for peace.” He also holds that he was a refugee in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a significant portion of the period during which the charges occurred. The defense team is considering asking for compensation for the 19 months during which Mokom was held in the court’s detention facility in Scheveningen, The Hague, Netherlands.

A lawyer representing the victims expressed disappointment, calling this outcome, “unfair and a betrayal,” and stating that victims were, “sad and immensely disappointed.” The case prosecutor said in a statement, “I am very conscious that this news may be unwelcome to many survivors and their families, [and] I hope many will understand my legal and ethical responsibilities to be guided by the law and the evidence.”

The action to withdraw charges was without prejudice, allowing a new trial if additional witnesses or evidence becomes available in relation to crimes under the court’s jurisdiction.

For further information, please see:

ABC News – ICC drops war crimes charges against former Central African Republic government minister – 19. Oct. 2023 

Africa News – Central African Republic ex-militia leader released by ICC – 20. Oct. 2023

France 24  –  Ex-CAR militia leader freed by ICC after all charges dropped – 20. Oct. 2023

ICC – Prosecutor withdraws charges against Maxime Mokom in the situation in the Central African Republic – 19. Oct. 2023

Radio France International – ICC releases Central Africa militia leader after dropping charges – 20. Oct. 2023






ICC Presides Over Sudanese War Crime Case

By: Rachel Wallisky

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Criminal Court (ICC) will review war crime charges out of Sudan in The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman. Ali Muhammad Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, allegedly committed over 30 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity between August 2003 and April 2004 in Darfur, Sudan. The charges stem from his role as Senior Leader of the Militia, also known as Janjaweed in Sudan, where those forces carried out a widespread and systematic attack against civilians living in Wadi Salih, Sudan.

Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, pictured in court | Photo Courtesy of the ICC

The ICC confirmed the charges against Abd-Al-Rahman, stating, “[t]his attack was carried out pursuant to, and in furtherance of, a State policy to commit an attack against the civilian population in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar Localities…predominantly against civilian members of the Fur tribe.” The charges include: intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such, as a war crime, murder as a crime against humanity and as a war crime, pillaging as a war crime, destruction of the property of an adversary as a war crime, other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity, outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime.

The trial began back in April 2022, when the prosecution began presenting its case. The prosecution presented fifty-six different witnesses and finished presenting its evidence on June 5, 2023. The defense presented its opening statement on October 18, 2023. The defense team argued that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is not the man that the ICC is looking for and plans to challenge the ICC’s jurisdiction over the case.

On September 15, 2023, the defense submitted a request to admit Ms. Fiona Marsh as an expert witness. The motion argues that Ms. Marsh will testify about two questioned signatures on documents presented in the prosecution’s case. The defense argued that the signatures on two documents submitted by the prosecution were not actually written by Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, and that “[h]er expert evidence will assist the Chamber by providing the necessary material for it to arrive at a reasoned finding on the authorship of the two questioned signatures.” The Court has not, as of yet, issued a decision on the motion.

The fallout from this attack has continued for twenty years until today. When advocates for the victims of this attack spoke on June 5, 2023, they highlighted the similarities between the situation from 2003-2005 and the present-day situation in Sudan. Given the relationship between the current situation in Sudan and the crimes that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is alleged to have been part of, as well as the defense’s theory that Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman is not the leader of the Janjaweed, it will be interesting to track the defense’s arguments as the case progresses.  

For more information, please see:

ICC – Case Information Sheet – The Prosecutor v. Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al Rahman, March 2022.

ICC – Corrected version of ‘Decision on the confirmation of charges against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (‘Ali Kushayb’)’ – 9 July 2021.

ICC – Defence Request to Admit Ms. Fiona Marsh as an Expert Witness – 15 Sept. 2023.

ICC – “Opening Statement and presentation of evidence by the Defence in the Abd-Al-Rahman case: Practical information” – 9 Oct. 2023.

ICC – Transcript of Proceedings – 5 June 2023.

Tunisian Nations Denied Suspension of the Decree-Law and Postponement of Elections

By: Rachel H Sanders

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Associate Member

BANJUL, The Gambia – Tunisian nationals were denied their application seeking provisional measures to suspend the enforcement of potentially anti-democratic election laws as well as the postponement of the Republic of Tunisia parliamentary elections. The Application was filed against the Republic of Tunisia which had recently received a judgment from the Court on September 22, 2022, ordering that the country restore constitutional democracy. The Tunisian nationals, named Ayadi Fathi, Khlifi Oussama, and Makhloufi Sofiane, were fearful that the President of the Republic of Tunisia was extending his extensive and unchecked powers by implementing “illegal and undemocratic acts which truncated constitutional democracy, leading the country into totalitarianism.”

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Photo Courtesy of ACfHPR

The Tunisian nationals claimed that the President of the Republic of Tunisia was attempting to set up a parliament that is completely under his control by abrogating the 2014 Constitution, initiating the dissolution of the provisional body in charge of reviewing the constitutionality of draft laws by the Decree-Law No. 2021-117 of September 22, 2021, and initiating the dissolution the of parliament by Decree-Law No. 2022-309 of March 30, 2022. The claimants alleged a violation of (A) the right to participate freely in the government of their country, protected by Articles 13(1)(2) and 24 of the Charter, Articles 1(1) and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 1(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), (B) the right to non-discrimination protected by Articles 2 and 18(3) of the Charter, and Article 2 of the ICCPR, and (C) the right to freedom of association, protected by Article 10(1) of the Charter. The petitioners focused upon challenging Decree-Law No. 2022-55 which amended and supplemented Organic Law No. 2014 of May 26, 2014, on elections and referendums.

In addition, the Tunisian nationals applied for a postponement of the legislative elections scheduled for December 17, 2022. The applicants claimed that “the Tunisian people stand to suffer imminent and irreparable harm in view of the fact that these elections may plunge the country into institutional disorder and political unrest for an unlimited period of time.” Conversely, the Court found a lack of urgency as the application was filed on January 6, 2023. Confusingly, the application and the request for provisional measures were initially filed on January 6, 2020. Despite that, it took until February 2, 2023, for the Republic of Tunisia to be notified. The Court provided the Republic of Tunisia a period to respond on the merits and on the provisional measures respectively within ninety (90) and fifteen (15) days of receipt of notification. The Court also requested that the Republic of Tunisia submit the names of its representatives within thirty (30) days. However, the Republic of Tunisia did not respond to the complaint.

In the end, the Court found against the Tunisian nationals stating that the request did not meet the requirements of urgency or extreme gravity and irreparable harm. The Court emphasized that these two facts are cumulative so that if one of them is lacking, the measure requested cannot be ordered. The Court recalled that urgency, which is consubstantial with extreme gravity, means a “real and imminent likelihood that irreparable harm will be caused before it renders its final decision.” The risk in question must be real, which excludes the purely hypothetical risk and explains the need to remedy it immediately. The Court denied the request to suspend the Decree-Law as the applicants never produced neither any evidence of urgency or extreme gravity nor evidence of irreparable harm, which would result from its enforcement. Due to this, as well the delay in the request for postponement of the election, the Court found that the Tunisian nationals’ request was moot.

The Republic of Tunisia became a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on October 21, 1986, and to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on October 5, 2007.  The Court’s order is provisional in nature and in no way prejudges the Court’s findings on its jurisdiction or on the admissibility and the merits of the Application. A dissenting opinion is being drafted by Bensaoula Chafika,

For further information, please see:

Human Rights violations alleged against the Republic of Benin

By: Wendy Neeley

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

Benin – On December 20, 2022, Eric Noudehouenou filed an application against the Republic of Benin with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Noudehouenou alleges several human rights violations against the respondent parties and asserts that many of these violations and actions were prohibited by previous judgments of the court. The allegations include violations of “respect for life and physical and moral integrity”, the “right to a fair trial”, the “right to freedom of opinion and expression”, the “right to freely associate with others”, and the “right to participate freely in the conduct of public affairs of one’s country”.

Noudehouenou filed the application on behalf of himself and other citizens of the Republic of Benin. Notably, the application states that Noudehouenou has been given power of attorney for Reckya Madougou. Madaougou was arrested while protesting the presidential election in 2021 which was prohibited by an earlier judgment of the court.

People gathered outside the court showing support for Reckya Madougou during her trial. Photo Courtesy of BBC News.

Benin is a West African country formerly known as Dahomey. It is underdeveloped and is ranked among the world’s poorest countries, but it has seen significant economic growth over the past few years. Although it is one of Africa’s more stable democracies, there is still some political unrest, as evidenced by the protests that resulted in the arrest of Madougou.

The application filed by Noudehouenou requests that the court enforce the judgments that would have prevented the 2021 Presidential Election and erase all of the effects of the election. He claims that not acting with urgency on the matter will cause irreparable harm. Additionally, the application calls for the suspension of Madougou’s detention. The circumstances around the arrest and trial have some questioning the conviction of acts of terrorism. Additionally, the application claims that Madougou is being held in appalling conditions and has not been allowed to communicate with her lawyers privately.

After reviewing the application, the court found that they can no longer take any measures regarding the 2021 Presidential election since it has already occurred, and the measures sought are not moot. Additionally, the court found no justification for the request for the suspension of the detention warrant for Reckya Madougou. Accordingly, and absent any further proceedings, she will be required to carry out her sentence of twenty years of imprisonment.

For further information, please see:

ACtHPR – Houngue Eric Noudehouenou v. Republic of Benin, 20 Dec. 2022

BBC News – Benin country profile – 16 Jan. 2023

BBC News – Reckya Madougou: Opposition leader jailing damages Benin democracy – laywer – 12 Dec. 2021 

Reuters – Benin opposition leader sentenced to 20 years in prison – 11 Dec. 2021 

Complaint filed in ECOWAS Court of Justice Against Liberia for Failure to Act upon TRC Recommendations

By: Chezelle McDade

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

The Doe Regime in Liberia resulted from the successful coup by Samuel Doe against then-President William Tolbert on April 12, 1980. Doe and his Armed Forces of Liberia (“AFL”) suspended the Liberian Constitution and created an authoritarian regime. Doe’s former ally, Charles Taylor, led a revolt against Doe in 1989 which resulted in Doe’s death and the end of his regime in 1990.  Civil war immediately erupted in Liberia among the warring rebel factions. One attack, which has been called the worst single atrocity in Liberia’s first civil war, occurred on July 29, 1990, at a Lutheran church housing thousands of men, women, and children who were displaced by the war. Troops loyal to the late President Doe bulldozed the doors to the church and proceeded to gun down and hack to death approximately 600 men, women, and children.


A survivor of the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Massacre displays her disfigured hand as the result of injury she sustained from the massacre. Photo Courtesy of Front Page Africa, James Harding Giahyue

Between 1989 and 2003 there were two civil wars in Liberia. Upon their conclusion and pursuant to the Accra peace agreement of 2003, an independent national commission on human rights was created as outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Act which was passed in May 2005. The task of the resulting Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia (the “TRC”) was to conduct investigations, inter alia, of gross human rights violations from January 1979 to October 2003. The TRC was operational from February 20, 2006, until June 22, 2009, and issued its final, consolidated, unedited report on June 30, 2009. The TRC concluded that several individuals and entities, including the AFL were liable for violations of Humanitarian and Human Rights laws and provided recommendations on accountability through prosecution.

On the basis of the TRC report and the testimony of survivors, a complaint was filed in 2018 against the former colonel of the AFL, Moses Thomas, for his role in the massacre. Summary judgment was granted and damages in the amount of $84 million dollars assessed. Thomas subsequently fled to Liberia, where he currently resides without limitations due to the Liberian Government’s lack of action. On October 4, 2022, the Center for Justice and Accountability along with a pro bono co-counsel filed a complaint with the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (“ECOWAS”) on behalf of the Global Justice and Research Project (“GJRP”), a Liberian NGO, along with three survivors of the Lutheran Church massacre. The Complaint alleges violations of several articles within various human rights charters and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and that the Liberian Government failed to conduct the official investigation into the Lutheran Church Massacre, identify those responsible and prosecute as advised by the TRC. The Hearing is scheduled for February 16, 2023, and a decision regarding this remains pending.


For further information, please see:

United States Institute of Peace – Truth Commission: Liberia – 20 Feb. 2006

United States Institute of Peace – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia – Final Report – 3 Dec. 2009

Front Page Africa – US Court Orders Thomas to Pay $84m to Victims of Lutheran Church Massacre; An Angry Thomas Condemns the Ruling – 22 Aug. 2022

Jane W. v. Moses Thomas Complaint – 12 Feb. 2018

Application to ECOWAS Court – 29 Sept. 2022