Central African Republic: Key Step toward Justice 

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April 25, Bangui: The Central African Republic’s National Transitional Council has taken decisive action for justice for the victims of atrocities by adopting a law to establish a Special Criminal Court within the national justice system, 23 Central African and international human rights organizations reported.

According to International Federation of Human Rights, The draft law, which the government sent to the transitional parliament on February 6, 2015, was adopted by an overwhelming majority on April 22 during a plenary session. The special court will investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic since 2003.

The Human rights Watch stated “By approving the Special Criminal Court, National Transition Council members said that ‘enough is enough’ with impunity and showed that they firmly stand on the side of justice for the victims who lost their lives or suffered atrocities,” and further said “There is no time to lose for the government and its international partners to ensure that the Special Criminal Court is up and running as soon as possible.”

The court, as set out in the law, will be a hybrid judicial mechanism made up of Central African and international judges within the Central African justice system for a renewable five-year period. The court will have a Central African president and an international special prosecutor. There will be a majority of national judges.

The Central African authorities have repeatedly admitted the weaknesses of the national justice system, the groups said. The system has been ravaged by years of conflict and it lacks the manpower, material resources, and expertise to handle difficult investigations into complex crimes. Given that the investigations will touch on atrocities committed by armed groups still operating in the Central African Republic, the Special Criminal Court will also play an important role in facilitating the protection and safety of judicial staff, victims, and witnesses HRW reported.

The law establishing the Special Criminal Court must now be enacted by the head of state of the transition, Catherine Samba-Panza. The law provides for setting up the court in stages. The judicial police, investigative judges, and office of the prosecutor are to start work first so that investigations can begin as soon as possible.

According Amnesty International Numerous victims of serious crimes committed since 2012 are awaiting justice, the organizations said. The United Nations peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA, has already arrested several suspects allegedly involved in serious crimes in recent months, including three leaders of the militia known as anti-balaka, and judicial proceedings against them need to move forward. To become a reality, and to be ready to investigate and judge the atrocities that continue to be committed in the country, the Special Criminal Court now needs qualified personnel, funding, and political support, at the national and international level, the groups said.     The Oslo Times

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