Since the Seleka took control of Bangui in March 2013, Human Rights Watch has been closely following events in the Central African Republic.
Regrettably both the Seleka and the anti-balaka continue to commit serious human rights abuses. In June Human Rights Watch went to areas around Kouango and documented that hundreds of people had been killed there by both the Seleka and the anti-balaka since late 2014. We found dozens of destroyed villages and spoke with scores of individuals who are still hiding in the bush. The presence of blue helmets has been a positive one, but clearly there is more work to be done.
The anti-balaka and the Seleka feel emboldened to kill civilians for one reason: they have been able do so without consequence. Impunity for corruption and mass atrocities is an underlying ill that plagues the Central African Republic. But justice can help make potential warlords think twice before taking up the gun.
Fortunately, in September 2014, the ICC prosecutor opened a second investigation in the Central African Republic. In June, the transitional president signed a law establishing a Special Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute serious crimes since 2003. These steps are unprecedented good news on this front.
For the first time a sovereign government has created, through a national law, a hybrid court where national and international judges and prosecutors will work together for victims to obtain justice for atrocities committed in its own country. The Special Criminal Court will work alongside the ICC. For victims of crimes committed by the Seleka or the anti-balaka, it is the best chance at justice. Holding perpetrators to account will be a key contribution toward preventing these abuses in the future. The Special Criminal Court will need money and resources and truly experienced staff. UN support in particular will be critical for its success.
We urge the OHCHR and the Independent Expert, to coordinate closely with other UN agencies and the UN peacekeeping mission to ensure effective support by the UN to the Special criminal court. OHCHR in particular has expertise in other countries with regards to the protection of victims, witnesses and judicial staff and collection of information about crimes that can be shared with national justice systems and should build on this experience to assist the Special criminal court. The Independent Expert should encourage donors to support the Special criminal court financially and strengthen the national justice system in the Central African Republic.