Arusha, September 16, 2014 (FH) – Human rights groups are calling for perpetrators of grave crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR) to be brought to justice “without delay”.

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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Central African Human Rights League (LCDH) and Central African Human Rights Monitor (OCDH) on Monday urged the International Criminal Court to send investigators to the CAR, and urged the UN peacekeeping mission to help set up a special court in the country. The call came as the UN took over the peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) in the country. 

“The big challenge in the Central African Republic is to fight impunity and bring to justice those who are giving criminal orders,” said OCDH president Mathias Morouba in New York. “The International Criminal Court is going to contribute, but we need a complementary justice mechanism in the Central African Republic to try all the others, and MINUSCA must help.”

Central African President Catherine Samba-Panza officially asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) in June to launch an investigation into “international” crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes) committed in her country since 2012.

LCDH President Joseph Bindoumi said in Bangui that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda “must now open an investigation in this country without delay, so as to send a strong signal to the belligerents on the ground and make sure evidence and testimonies are not lost.”

Bensouda has already opened a preliminary investigation into the situation in the CAR.

On August 8 this year, the UN and the Central African government also signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Special Criminal Court (CCS) with Central African and international judges. But the court can only be set up after the country’s transitional parliament (CNT) passes a specific law.

“We call on the CNT to create this Special Criminal Court as soon as possible because it would be a vital step forward for the victims and for the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic,” said FIDH judicial action head and honorary president Patrick Baudouin. “The United Nations and international donors say they are ready to fund this special court, so they must quickly commit themselves to give it the necessary resources, including for the international judges, so as to stop the cycle of impunity and make sure new crimes are not committed.”

The CAR has been in a grave crisis since Seleka rebels seized power in 2013 in a campaign marked by widespread killing, looting and destruction. In mid-2013, groups of so-called “anti-balaka” organized to fight the Seleka and also committed atrocities.  ER/JC