SA has duty to indict rebel leader, says union

2013-04-01 09:13

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The South African government has a legal duty to have Central African Republic (CAR) rebel leader Michel Djotodia indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) has said.

This followed media reports that rebels who took control of the country last week used child soliders against the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), national secretary Pikkie Greeff said in a statement yesterday.

“Using child soldiers to conduct acts of war and aggression is a violation of human rights and an international act of criminality,” he said.

“The SA government has a legal duty to enforce international human rights law. It can best do so by initiating the indictment of Djotodia through the ICC.”

He said that failing to do so would constitute a tacit but gross condonation of human rights violations and criminal conduct of a warlord abusing children as soldiers.

In what has turned out to be South Africa’s heaviest military loss since apartheid, 13 soldiers were killed last weekend in Bangui in clashes with Seleka rebels who toppled president Francois Bozize.

About 200 South African troops fought against some 3 000 rebels during the battle for the CAR capital that lasted several hours.

Some of survivors who have returned home recounted to local newspapers that they only discovered after the battle that they had been fighting against some teenage rebel soldiers.

City Press reported yesterday that the SANDF troops were running out of ammunition, according to a source close to the military’s controversial CAR deployment. A soldier also said many of the rebels were “only children”.

“The rebels stormed our soldiers in groups, not at all like trained soldiers, and many of them were only children,” the source revealed.

President Jacob Zuma in January had approved the deployment of 400 soldiers to the CAR to help local troops. as part of a bilateral pact with the administration of now deposed Bozize. In the end about 200 soldiers were sent.

Some of the CAR rebels were “teenagers who should be in school,” the soldier told the paper.

South Africa’s government now faces increasing calls at home for a probe into why troops were sent to the CAR.

Zuma is due to attend an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States on Wednesday to be hosted by the Chadian leader Idriss Deby Itno.

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