The Special Criminal Court, a New Opportunity for Victims in the Central African Republic

This report discusses the progress, obstacles, and challenges for the Special Criminal Court in its initial phases. Based on regular observation of the court and interviews with victim representatives, activists, court staff, UN representatives, donors, and government officials, Human Rights Watch offers observations on the current stage of the court’s development.

Congolese Special Prosecutor Toussaint Muntazini (R) and the five other judges of the Special Criminal Court (SCC).


  • May 3, 2018

    Lessons from Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, and the United Kingdom

    This report examines aspects of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s practices in its preliminary examinations, which determine whether the court’s criteria to open a full investigation are met. Human Rights Watch found serious obstacles to justice in national courts, and mixed success in spurring progress in domestic prosecutions through the office’s interactions with authorities in Guinea, Colombia, Georgia, and the United Kingdom. But Human Rights Watch concluded that the office’s engagement can help make an important contribution.

    Cover of the ICC report in English
  • November 13, 2017

    How Guatemala’s Courts Could Doom the Fight against Impunity

    This  report documents a pattern of repeated and unjustifiable delays in criminal cases brought by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office. 

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  • September 7, 2017

    Evidence of Atrocities and Cover-Up of Abuses Committed during Peru’s Armed Conflict

    This report provides an overview of existing evidence, including testimony by several soldiers that they tortured, killed, and forcibly disappeared people during military operations against armed groups in the 1990s. They said they did so under the orders—and sometimes in the presence of—Humala, who was allegedly stationed at the Madre Mía military base in the Alto Huallaga region in 1992 under the pseudonym “Captain Carlos.” In testimony provided to judicial authorities and interviews with Human Rights Watch and the media, several victims also implicated Humala in violations and in attempted cover-ups.

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    Cover of the Peru report
  • August 29, 2017

    Victims’ Legal Representation at the ICC in the Ongwen Case and Beyond

    This report compares the way victims’ lawyers were selected in one ongoing trial to broader trends in court practice. At the ICC, victims have a right to participate in trials and are represented at trial through lawyers. The court’s system of victim participation, a key innovation in international criminal justice, creates a critical link between communities affected by atrocities and the courtroom. But Human Rights Watch found that ICC practice is falling short of ensuring that the victims’ views are adequately considered in decisions about whether and how to organize victims’ legal representation.

    Cover of the international justice report on victim's legal representation in the Ongwen case and beyond
  • July 5, 2017

    War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and the Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic

    This report presents a comprehensive account of war crimes committed in three central provinces since late 2014, including more than 560 civilian deaths and the destruction of more than 4,200 homes. The crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Special Criminal Court (SCC), a new judicial body that, when operational, will investigate and prosecute grave human rights violations and war crimes in the country since 2003.

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    Cover of the Central African Republic
  • June 28, 2016

    The United States and Chad’s Hissène Habré 1982-1990

    This report describes how France, and especially the United States, were pivotal in bringing Habré to power, although signs of his brutality were already evident. The two countries saw Habré as a bulwark against the expansionist designs of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, whose forces were occupying northern Chad. Human Rights Watch details how both the United States and France continued to provide Habré’s government with critical support, even as it committed widespread and systematic human rights violations.

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  • March 22, 2016

    Delivering Credible Accountability for Serious Abuses in Côte d’Ivoire

    This report outlines critical areas requiring additional government support so that Ivorian courts can provide credible justice. It is based on more than 70 interviews with government officials, members of the judiciary, representatives of nongovernmental groups, international criminal justice experts, UN officials, diplomats, and donor officials.

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  • August 4, 2015

    Lessons from the ICC’s Work in Côte d’Ivoire

    This 88-page report draws on interviews with activists, journalists, and ICC staff in Abidjan and The Hague to assess whether the ICC has done what it can to ensure that its proceedings are relevant, meaningful, and accessible to Ivorians. Human Rights Watch found that the prosecution’s decision to limit its initial investigations to one side of the country’s 2010-2011 post-election crisis was a misstep, compounded when other court staff adopted the same narrow focus in their efforts to engage Ivorians in the court’s work. This lessened the court’s potential impact in the country. 

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  • July 25, 2012

    Lessons from the Trial of Charles Taylor

    This 55-page report analyzes the practice and impact of Taylor’s trial by the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. The report examines the conduct of the trial, including issues related to efficiency, fairness, and witnesses and sources.

  • March 12, 2012

    Lessons of International Support for Trials before the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

    This 47-page report highlights key lessons from the involvement of international judges and prosecutors to boost national staff capacity to try sensitive and complex cases stemming from the 1992-1995 war. In the seven years since the State Court began operations, its chamber and the Special Department for War Crimes (SDWC) in the Prosecutor’s Office have completed more than 200 cases.
  • September 15, 2011

    Closing Gaps in the Selection of ICC Cases

    This 50-page report assesses the Office of the Prosecutor’s choice of cases in its first five investigations. Investigations in Central African Republic, Sudan’s Darfur region, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and northern Uganda have yielded 10 cases and three trials, making an important contribution to tackling impunity for some of the world’s worst crimes.
  • May 10, 2010

    Advancing the Global Fight against Impunity at the ICC Review Conference

    This 102-page report assesses progress and recommends steps to strengthen international justice. The report addresses the four themes identified as part of the conference's "stock-taking exercise": peace and justice, strengthening national courts, the ICC's impact on affected communities, and state cooperation.
  • November 7, 2008

    This year's annual meeting of states parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) comes just a few months after two important anniversaries: ten years since the adoption of the ICC statute and five years since the start of the court's operations. This memorandum identifies a series of challenges the court now faces as it carries out its mandate to bring justice for the world's worst crimes.
  • July 11, 2008

    The Landmark International Criminal Court’s First Years

    This 244-page report examines the ICC’s accomplishments and shortcomings since it began operations in 2003. The court was created to bring justice to the victims of gross human rights violations; so far the court has issued arrest warrants against suspects in four countries, though none have yet been tried.