Central African Republic issues arrest warrant for ex-president

BANGUI Fri May 31, 2013 12:26pm EDT

A French soldier stands in front of a poster of ousted President Francois Bozize outside M'poko international airport in Bangui March 28, 2013. REUTERS/Alain Amontchi

A French soldier stands in front of a poster of ousted President Francois Bozize outside M'poko international airport in Bangui March 28, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Alain Amontchi

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BANGUI (Reuters) - The new government of Central African Republic has issued an international arrest warrant against deposed former president Francois Bozize, accusing him of "crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide", the state prosecutor said on Friday.

Thousands of fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition, angered by what they said was Bozize's refusal to honor an earlier peace deal, marched into the capital Bangui on March 24, forcing him to flee to neighboring Cameroon.

The mineral-rich nation's new leaders opened an investigation last month into alleged crimes committed during his 10-year reign.

Prosecutor Alain Tolmo told journalists in Bangui that the crimes uncovered by the investigation fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. However, he did not say if the government planned to ask that Bozize be tried before The Hague court.

"There were multiple assassinations, numbering 22 for the moment, arrests, arbitrary confinements and detentions, the destruction and burning of 3,823 homes, 119 summary executions," he said.

Bozize will also being sought for alleged economic crimes.

Tolmo said the warrant had been handed over to Interpol and added that more would soon be issued against others involved in his alleged crimes.

Authorities in Cameroon, where Bozize remains in exile, were not immediately available for comment.

Having overthrown his predecessor President Ange-Felix Patasse in a 2003 coup, Bozize was re-elected twice in 2005 and 2011.

In the wake of his ouster earlier this year, Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was named interim president by the parliament and charged with leading the chronically unstable nation to elections within 18 months.

He has struggled however to rein in his former rebel fighters who were accused by rights group Human Rights Watch earlier this month of executing opponents, raping women and looting homes - acts that could constitute war crimes.

Having immediately denounced Djotodia's seizure of power as illegal, regional leaders have since recognized him as the country's transitional head but stopped short of embracing him as president. The European Union, meanwhile, suspended its more than $200 million aid program, warning it would not resume until the rule of law was re-established.

(Reporting by Paul-Marin Ngoupana; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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