MINUSCA, the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic, has called on the nation’s judicial authorities to investigate grave crimes committed in the southeast of the country and take steps to ensure the perpetrators are brought before national courts, including the Special Criminal Court.
The call came in a MINUSCA statement on July 31. It is urging prosecutions for grave crimes committed between May and December 2017 in that part of the Central African Republic (CAR). Stressing that some of these abuses could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, the document points the finger at the Anti-balaka mainly Christian militia and the Union for Peace in the CAR (UPC), one of the factions in the mainly Muslim ex-rebel coalition Seleka. It says that during the period in question, both sides committed murder, rape, forced displacement of the population, looting and destruction of public buildings, places of worship, private houses, shops and commercial premises. In some places Muslims or leaders of the Catholic church were deliberately targeted, says the UN mission.
People’s courts in DRC?
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, many serious crimes remain unpunished, or are forgotten as witnesses and victims die, taking with them precious evidence. To help shed light on these crimes, a group of Congolese and international civil society actors have been campaigning since April for the establishment of so-called people’s tribunals. This project, inspired by the Russell Tribunal, “aims to give a voice to victims of grave crimes so that they can tell what they have seen and seek reparations”, says Congolese lawyer Sylvestre Bisimwa. “We will invite perpetrators, witnesses and experts to come and speak, so as that truth and justice can prevail,” Bisimwa continues.
“The decisions of the people’s courts are not legally binding but they can have a very important moral and symbolic value for affected communities and for the State authorities to whom they are generally submitted,” explains Daniele Perissi, director in the DRC for the Swiss NGO TRIAL International.
Children’s rights in the Middle East
Three UN officials in the Middle East meanwhile issued a joint statement on August 1 reminding both Israeli and Palestinian parties of their obligation to protect the rights of children during conflict. Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, James Heenan, head of the UN human rights office in Palestine, and Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF Special Representative in Palestine, said they were “deeply concerned” by reports of children, some younger than 11, being killed or seriously injured in the Palestinian administered territories. They also deplored the fact that “children in Israel are exposed to fear, trauma, and grave injuries”. “Respecting the rights of children and refraining from instrumentalizing their plight should be a priority for all,” they said. “This context is not an exception.”