World, Africa

'Warlords still walk free in Central African Republic'

Amnesty International says despite a few investigations, trials these past few years, warlords still walk free

Felix Tih   | 22.10.2020
'Warlords still walk free in Central African Republic'

ANKARA

Many perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) have not been brought to justice two years after country inaugurated a Special Criminal Court (SCC), Amnesty International said in a report on Thursday.

Various armed groups and individuals have enjoyed impunity for crimes under international law, including unlawful killings and sexual violence in the war-torn country for several decades, according to the Amnesty.

“Civilians have borne the brunt of successive waves of violence and armed conflict since 2002 in CAR. Thousands have been killed, raped, and over half a million people are still displaced.

“Impunity is an affront for the victims and a blank check for perpetrators of crimes. The inauguration of the SCC provided a glimmer of hope for victims, but progress is slow.

“Ten cases are currently before investigating judges, and the SCC has refused to disclose the identities of the 21 individuals arrested following its investigations, without providing reasons for such refusal,” Samira Daoud, the director of Amnesty International West and Central Africa.

SCC is a UN-backed hybrid tribunal mandated to investigate and prosecute, for a renewable five-year period, crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed in CAR since January 2003.

It was established by a June 2015 law and inaugurated on Oct. 22, 2018.

The country has been wracked by violence since Seleka rebels ousted then-President Francois Bozize in 2013, who rose to prominence during the rule of former dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

But his failure to deliver genuine power sharing, followed by his re-election in disputed 2011 polls, led to the offensive by the coalition of five armed rebel groups known as Séléka, which means “alliance” in the local Sango language.

The republic, which gained independence from France in 1960, has rich, yet underexploited deposits of gold, diamonds, and uranium.

President Faustin-Archange Touadera, a former prime minister who is in office since 2016, has several times reiterated his commitment to preserving peace.

“Warlords who used to be very powerful […] became small people again. Victims directly spoke to the accused during hearings, and these warlords lowered their eyes! We could feel justice was being done. Those were really powerful moments, appreciated by the population,” a former judge told Amnesty International.

On Monday, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic commended the country for "significant progress" in terms of "political reforms, restoration of state authority and transitional justice" since the signing of a peace agreement nearly two years ago.

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