Senegal: Rights groups calls for the establishment of special court in CAR

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Some 23 human rights groups Wednesday called for the intensification of efforts towards the establishment of a Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic (CAR).

In a joint statement made available to PANA in Dakar, the rights groups, including Amnesty International, said the CAR Government, United Nations and donors should do more to get the special court operating.

''Our organizations welcome the steps taken by the transitional government to put an end to impunity for atrocities committed in the Central African Republic, notably through the establishment of a Special Criminal Court,'' the groups remarked.

''These efforts must continue and be supported by international actors to ensure that the court envisioned on paper becomes a reality as quickly as possible.''

In June 2015, the CAR transitional government promulgated a law passed in April to establish a Special Criminal Court inside the national judicial system, consisting of national and international staff, to investigate and prosecute the gravest crimes committed in the country since 2003, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

According to the statement, despite a difficult security situation, the Central African authorities have taken some first steps to establish the court.

The government has, among other measures, selected and made available a building to enable the first investigative and prosecution activities of the court.

It has prepared some of the decrees required for the court to function, and developed job descriptions for recruiting the court’s future staff.

The UN has continued to support the process, notably by sending a team of experts to assess the logistical and financial needs of the court, and by preparing a project plan to support the establishment of the court.

The statement pointed out that grave human rights violations were still being committed in CAR and Non-governmental organizations recently documented more than 100 killings, as well as the destruction of vital infrastructure and 20 cases of sexual assault in the course of sectarian violence that had shaken Bangui since the end of September.

''These figures most likely represent only a fraction of the grave crimes that have been committed with total impunity in CAR. The Central African justice system is still too weak to investigate and prosecute such crimes.''

''This is why the Special Criminal Court has a leading role to play in the fight against impunity in CAR,'' the groups said.

Meanwhile, presidential and parliamentary elections in the country are slated for 27 December, 2015, with a possible second round planned 31 January, 2016, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes and many local human rights organizations fear a new wave of violence around the elections.

“It is urgent that the Special Criminal Court be up and running to try these crimes and to clearly signal that abuses of this kind will no longer be tolerated,” the groups emphasized.

''The effective operations of the court will only be possible if the Central African authorities have the means and opportunity to assume full ownership over it and take increased leadership in establishing it.''

In that regard, the statement noted that an existing steering committee could play a key role in developing a common vision of the Special Criminal Court and guiding all measures required to get the court up and running, including, but not limited to, the recruitment of personnel.

It was also noted that the committee should include the transitional government, the UN, and some international partners and should meet regularly.

It was further proposed that the court’s provisional budget should be quickly finalized so the search for funding could begin.

''It is clear that justice for the grave crimes committed in the Central African Republic is an essential building block for durable peace in the nation. Financial and logistical support for the Special Criminal Court is both an indispensable investment in the future and a moral duty toward victims who have suffered so much.'' the statement concluded.
-0- PANA MLJ/VAO 23Dec2015

23 december 2015 14:45:43

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