Bangui – A Central African Republic minister and former top rebel suspected of involvement in a 2018 civilian massacre received an award on Monday from the country’s president, days after being freed from prison by government forces.
Livestock minister Bouba Ali Hassan, 36, was named a “commander in the Central African Republic’s national order of merit”, according to a government decree read out on state radio.
Usually known as Hassan Bouba, the minister had been arrested on November 19 on the orders of the Special Criminal Court (CPS), a joint jurisdiction with Central African and international judges overseeing human rights cases.
But he was escorted from prison days later by gendarmes and returned home.
The CPS did not say exactly which events prompted Bouba’s arrest, charging him with war crimes and “crimes against humanity through murders, inhumane acts (and) cruel treatment like torture”.
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An investigation published by US-based NGO The Sentry in August had accused him of responsibility for the 2018 massacre of at least 112 villagers in a camp for displaced people near the town of Alindao, 500km (300 miles) east of the capital Bangui.
Bouba had been second in command of the UPC rebel group, led by Ali Darassa.
But by the time of the 2018 attack, Hassan was special adviser to President Faustin Archange Touadera, who came to power in 2016 and whose government had started integrating rebel figures in a bid to divide the opposition.
“If the Central African Republic wants to address impunity for atrocities, the government needs to support the Special Criminal Court and Bouba’s immediate re-arrest,” Elise Keppler of Human Rights Watch said in a statement Sunday.
“Allowing Bouba to be released in defiance of the Special Criminal Court’s orders undermines efforts to advance justice,” she added.
One of the world’s poorest countries according to the UN, the CAR descended into civil war in 2013.
The conflict has calmed over the past three years, although large swathes of territory remain outside central government control.
The UPC expelled Hassan in January as the rebel group temporarily joined a new coalition against Touadera.
Picture: Getty Images