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CAR war crimes trial postponed over lawyers’ non-appearance

The inaugural trial of a court established to prosecute war crimes in Central African Republic’s drawn-out conflict has been postponed, Reuters reports.

The trial was postponed on its first day on Tuesday when lawyers for the defendants boycotted proceedings.

The trial is related to the massacre of 46 civilians in the northern villages of Koundjili and Lemouna in May 2019, killings prosecutors say were carried out by the 3R rebel group.

Three members of the group have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The defendants’ lawyers failed to show on Tuesday, the exact reason for which was unclear.

Joseph Bindoumi, president of the Central African League for Human Rights, told Reuters it was over a dispute about the treatment of the defenders.

The trial will resume on April 25.

The case is being heard in the Special Criminal Court, which was set up in 2015 to try crimes committed in wartime. A Reuters report says the case is seen as a milestone for the CAR, where a decade-long conflict between government forces and rebels has forced more than one million people to flee.

Mass atrocities have led to interventions from UN peacekeepers and troops from Russia, France and Rwanda. But rights groups say crimes against civilians are common, often undocumented, and carried out with impunity.