Amnesty International called on the international community to expedite efforts in setting up a hybrid with international judges will try war crimes suspect in the Central African Republic, warning that “impunity on a staggering scale” exists in the country.
In a new report entitled “The long wait for justice: Accountability in Central African Republic”, the human rights organisation stressed the need to radically reform the country’s justice system and witness protection programs.
“Thousands of victims of human rights abuses across CAR are still waiting for justice to be served, while individuals who have committed horrific crimes like murder and rape roam free,” said Ilaria Allegrozzi, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher. “This is impunity on a staggering scale, and it is undermining efforts to rebuild CAR and create a sustainable peace.”
With the help of UN peacekeepers arrested, 384 people have been arrested since September 2014, but Amnesty said "only a handful of high-profile individuals suspected of having committed the most serious crimes".
A member of civil society in Bangui told Amnesty International in their report that “they [suspected perpetrators] live side by side with their victims”.
“They take the same taxis, shop in the same shops, and live in the same neighbourhood. None have been arrested or prosecuted, and such a climate of impunity only reassures the perpetrators.”
“The only long-term solution to this entrenched impunity is the comprehensive overhaul of CAR’s national justice system, including by rebuilding its courts, prisons and police force”, continued Ms Allegrozzi. “In the meantime, sustainable funding for the Special Criminal Court, including robust witness protection programmes, is an essential step towards justice.”
“The SCC is essential to ensure that victims of some of the conflict’s most serious crimes will have a chance to see justice done in CAR, and should be given every support,” she added, noting that $5 million of the $7 million required for initial operations of the court has been secured. A donors' conference said an approximate $105 million would be needed over the next five years.
“It is also vital that a robust victim and witness protection programme is developed to ensure their safe participation in the proceedings. Defendants must also have the right to all safeguards ensuring a fair trial, including legal aid. It is time to put an end to the climate of fear that has enveloped CAR for too long.”
See more from Amnesty International here.