Said trial opens before the ICC

Mahamat Said Abdel Kani at the confirmation of charges hearing, 2021. © International Criminal Court
On 26 September 2022, the trial of Mr Mahamat Said Abdel Kani also known as "Mahamat Said Abdel Kain" and "Mahamat Saïd Abdelkani" ("Mr Said") opened before Trial Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court (ICC), composed of Judge Miatta Maria Samba (Presiding judge), Judge Socorro Flores Liera and Judge Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godínez.

It is the second trial in the Central African Republic II (CAR II) situation, following the one against Mr Alfred Yekatom and Mr Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, which is ongoing.

Mr Said is alleged to have been a Séléka commander and is accused of crimes against humanity (imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty; torture; persecution; enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts) and war crimes (torture and cruel treatment) allegedly committed in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013.

After the reading of the charges, Mr Said pleaded non-guilty. The hearing continued with the delivery of opening statements by the prosecution, delivered by ICC Prosecutor Khan and Deputy Prosecutor Niang, the Legal Representative of Victims, Ms Sarah Pellet, and the Defence.

Following the opening of the trial, the Prosecution will begin the presentation of its case and has been granted the right to introduce 43 witnesses. After that, the Legal Representative of Victims may submit observations, and then will be the turn of the Defence, that will have the opportunity to present its case and call witnesses. When the hearings come to an end, the judges will render their judgement and issue a verdict, either acquitting or convicting the accused. More information on the trial procedure can be found in the ICC Q&A document.


“The opening of the Said trial is an important step towards achieving justice for victims and affected communities in the Central African Republic,” said the Coalition for the ICC’s Acting Convenor, Melinda Reed. “The tireless work of civil society and survivors has been essential in moving this case forward”.

Read on for what our member organizations are saying about the opening of the trial: 

''The trial of Mr Mahamat Kani, which opens today before the ICC, is part of the fight against impunity regarding the perpetrators and accomplices of crimes that shock against the conscience of humanity,” expressed Bruno Hyacinthe Gbiegba, Deputy coordinator at the CAR national Coalition for the ICC. “Victims expect the trial to take place with respect for the rights of all parties to the trial.”

“The arrest and transfer of this alleged war criminal…is a strong signal in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic, Africa, and the world,” said the African Francophone Coalitions for the ICC in a statement. They have also urged the Court “to pursue the second and third parts of the investigations opened in the Central African Republic and to continue to cooperate with other States in order to arrest other criminals who continue to commit crimes that shock the conscience and sow desolation among the peaceful population of the CAR.”

“Said’s trial should be the beginning of accountability for crimes by this group that devasted the Central African Republic so much,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch. “The ICC should continue to investigate other top-level Séléka commanders, or the ‘big fish’ as they are called in Bangui.”

#CARcrisis #RCA The trial of Mahamat Said - the first Seleka to be tried at the @IntlCrimCourt - is a huge step towards ensuring accountability for crimes committed by this group. But the court should also go for the Seleka's "big fish". Dispatch for @hrw https://t.co/uKFcZRn5iV pic.twitter.com/bW8epLAA0O

— Lewis Mudge (@LewisMudge) September 26, 2022 



The Central African Republic ratified the ICC Rome Statute in October 2001 and referred the situation in its territory to the ICC since 1 July 2002.

In May 2007, the Court opened a first investigation on the situation in the Central African Republic, known as “CAR I,” which focuses on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of a conflict in CAR since 1 July 2002, with a focus on events in 2022 and 2003.

The CAR II situation was opened in September 2014, following a referral by the CAR government on 30 May 2014, with a focus on war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the country since 1 August 2012.

The trial against Mr Said is part of the CAR II situation.  An arrest warrant against Mr Said was submitted, under seal, by the Prosecutor on 30 October 2018 and issued, under seal, by Pre-Trial Chamber II on 7 January 2019. Mr Said was surrendered to the Court on 24 January 2021 by the authorities of the CAR. On 9 December 2021 Pre-Trial Chamber II partially confirmed the charges against Mr Said and committed him to trial. This is the first trial against an alleged Séléka member at the ICC.

So far, there are two ongoing trials in this situation, five warrants of arrest have been issued, and four suspects are in custody while one remains at large. More information on the case can be found in the ICC’s dedicated page.