Amnesty denounces impunity for CAR warlords

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Amnesty International on Thursday denounced the impunity it says warlords who have carved up the Central African Republic and control most of the country after seven years of civil war enjoy.

Many militia leaders have not been brought to justice despite the scale of human rights violations persisting two years after a Special Criminal Court (SCC) for CAR was inaugurated, Amnesty said in a new report.

In 2013, armed groups mainly from the Muslim minority, the Seleka ("alliance"), toppled the regime of president Francois Bozize and plunged the poor, landlocked nation into a spiral of violence.

In Christian and animist communities, self-defence groups emerged, known as "anti-balaka" (roughly translated as "invincible"), to fight Seleka forces, who were driven from the capital Bangui in 2014.

In 2015, the United Nations accused former Seleka fighters and the anti-balaka militias of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

But Amnesty said individuals and armed groups have long enjoyed impunity for their misdeeds.

"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," said Samira Daoud, Amnesty's west and central Africa director.

"Impunity is an affront for the victims and a blank cheque for perpetrators of crimes," she added, even if the inauguration of the SCC had provided "a glimmer of hope" for victims.

Following remote interviews with judges, prosecutors, lawyers and human rights activists, Amnesty concluded the SCC must show more transparency.

The SCC has a mandate complementary to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the work of ordinary courts in the CAR.

Its judges are CAR citizens and international figures, selected to tackle crimes dating back to January 2003.

Daoud noted the SCC had refused to identify 21 individuals arrested after investigation.Details are also sparse on the 10 cases currently before prosecuting judges and on "at least 122 complaints" received by the court's office of the special prosecutor in an under-resourced judicial system.

With civilians still facing attack from armed groups Daoud noted that "much more needs to be done to end the cycle of impunity that continues to cause so much suffering."