Fighting in the northwest of the Central African Republic and in and around the Muslim enclave in Bangui, known as PK5, continues. Scores of civilians have been killed
This recent violence has been unfolding as armed groups prey on civilians in the eastern part of the country.
Across the country armed groups have targeted woman and girls. We have spoken with survivors who explained how one side had raped them as punishment for allegedly buying and selling to the other.
The interactive dialogue to assess human rights challenges on the ground with a particular focus on transitional justice is timely as impunity is a principal driver of this violence. Between 2009 and today, only one session of the criminal court (the equivalent of a jury court, which prosecutes crimes, in the Central African Republic) has taken place in the country, in Bangui in 2015, with the support of international partners. This sends a chilling message to would be war lords. They know they can kill, rape and destroy villages and get away with it.
Investigating and prosecuting those responsible for grave international crimes is not an easy task for a national justice system marked by a lack of qualified personnel, inadequate resources, and no means to ensure the security of either magistrates or victims and witnesses.
In order to tackle these challenges and strengthen the national justice system, the interim president signed in June 2015 a law establishing a Special Criminal Court, comprised of both national and international judges and prosecutors, to investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations committed in the country since 2003. The Special Criminal Court will work alongside the International Criminal Court on the one hand, and ordinary courts, on the other hand, which retain jurisdiction for cases that the Special Criminal Court will not select.
One year after the promulgation of the law, there have been some steps forward in setting up this court, but progress has been too slow. We are pleased that the Independent Expert used her recent visit in Bangui to encourage the national authorities to accelerate the process. We encourage the Independent Expert to use her upcoming report to present her evaluation of challenges encountered in setting up the Special Criminal Court and to make recommendations to overcome these. Principal amongst these recommendations, we believe that the national authorities should show increased leadership and urgently adopt, together with the United Nations, a roadmap, with clear deadlines, that will lead to the Special Criminal Court becoming operational.