Central African Republic : Abdoulaye Miskine released in exchange for hostages, accommodation of impunity

On 27 November 2014, Cameroonian authorities freed the Central African-Chadian warlord Abdoulaye Miskine, probably in exchange for 26 hostages who had been kidnapped by Miskine’s supporters in protest of his detention in Cameroon since September 2013. While our organisations are pleased that the hostages have been released, we condemn the preferential treatment of an alleged warlord -whose involvement in international crimes has been documented by FIDH since 2003 - and demand that he is held to account before —the national justice or the International Criminal Court.

Abdoulaye Miskine – born Martin Koumtamadji – leader of the armed group Democratic Front of the Central African People (Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain – FDPC), has been in custody since 16 September 2013 suspected of having plotted attacks against Cameroonian villages. He was released by Cameroonian authorities and flew to Brazzaville on a plane owned by the President of Congo and mediator in the Central African crisis, Denis Sassou Nguesso who received him after his arrival in Brazzaville.

Miskine’s liberation comes after the release of at least 26 hostages captured by his men during several attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon. Among the freed persons, 15 were Cameroonian nationals, 10 were Central African nationals and were released to the International Red Cross on 29 November, and one was a polish priest, Mateusz Dziedzic, who was kidnapped on 12 October 2014 at the Catholic mission of Baboua (West CAR). The Cameroonian authorities affirmed that they led a “military operation” which freed the hostages. Authorities deny that there was any agreement to exchange prisoners; however, they are unable to explain why Miskine was released, nor why it occurred simultaneously with the release of hostages.

“The release of Abdoulaye Miskine and his welcome in Brazzaville demonstrate how impunity has built up in CAR. Abdoulaye Miskine should answer to his actions before the national or international judiciary for crimes committed in 2013, as well as for those perpetrated since 2002,” declared Mr. Patrick Baudoin, FIDH Honorary President and Head of its Litigation Action Group.

This additional chapter in the history of impunity in CAR must reinforce the conviction of the Central African authorities, the UN, and the entire international community, to strengthen the resources and activities of the Special Investigation and Instruction Unit (CSEI), which is mandated to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of serious human rights violations, as well as to speed up the adoption of a law establishing the Special Criminal Court (SCC).

Miskine is suspected of being responsible for some of the most serious crimes perpetrated in CAR over the past decade, which have been documented by FIDH in its reports since 2002.

Background Information

Under the Presidency of Ange-Félix Patassé, from 2001 to 2003, Abdoulaye Miskine led the Presidential Security Unit (Unité de la sécurité présidentielle – USP), composed of Chadian mercenaries armed and trained by Libya. As the head of the USP, he fought Bozizé rebels with the Congolese militias of Jean-Pierre Bemba (DRC). The investigation led by FIDH and LCDH in 2002, “War crimes in the Central African Republic: when the elephants fight, the grass suffers”, attribute the USP, under the leadership of Miskine, with responsibility for a succession of massacres perpetrated in Bangui at the PK12 livestock market at the end of October 2002.

Given the scale of crimes committed in CAR in 2002 and 2003, the ICC finally opened an investigation on 22 May 2007 which led, in May 2008, to the arrest and indictment of Jean-Pierre Bemba. As early as in November 2009, FIDH expressed disappointment that several alleged perpetrators of serious crimes were not brought before the ICC, including Miskine. FIDH has asked that other arrest warrants be issued against him.

After Bozizé took power on 15 March 2003, Miskine engaged in a rebellion and created the rebel group Democratic Front of the Central African People (Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain – FDPC). From 2007 to 2009, as Miskine was not pursued by the law, the FDPC signed several agreements with Bozizé’s regime, which they broke regularly and made alliances of any kind. In the fall of 2012, he joined the Séléka coalition with other armed groups to overthrow Bozizé. In March 2013, just before the conquest of Bangui, the FDPC officially left the Séléka coalition and fights between them exploded. Those fights, including one fight in which Miskine was wounded and his right-hand man killed, led to the “loss of many FDPC men” according to Miskine.

He then seemed to change his alliance and joined anti-Séléka groups, even though it meant making an alliance with Armel Sayo, Patassé’s former Chief of Security, and his armed group, and even with pro-Bozizé armed group.

As noted in their last investigation report (2014), “Central African Republic: they must all leave or die”, FIDH, LCDH and OCDH gathered information demonstrating that Miskine forces have continued to lead several attacks on villages on the border between CAR and Cameroon. During those attacks, they perpetrated several acts of violence against civilians, including executions, rapes, and looting.

On 16 September 2013, Miskine was arrested in Bertoua, Cameroon, by the Direction of Surveillance of territory (DST). At that time, he was not formally charged by the Cameroonian authorities because the Séléka government “did not have an arrest warrant issued against Abdoulaye Miskine”.

On 13 May 2014, US President Barack Obama signed a decree ordering sanctions against the former CAR presidents, François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, and against three other Séléka and anti-Balaka leaders, including Abdoulaye Miskine. They were accused by the White House of fuelling the violence in CAR.

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