#GlobalJusticeWeekly – A special court for the Central African Republic

Marcus Bleasdale pic1

A member of the Christian population around PK13 on the outskirts of Bangui runs through looted and burning houses. © Marcus Bleasdale

The Central African Republic (CAR) has taken an important step towards accountability for atrocities committed during its ongoing crisis.

Late last week, the county’s transitional government approved the establishment of a hybrid court, composed of Central African and international officials, to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the CAR since 2003.

A coalition of 23 Central African and international groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), the International Federation for Human Rights and the CAR Coalition for the ICC, lauded the decision.

They called for mutual cooperation between the special court and the ICC, which is currently investigating allegations of grave crimes in the CAR since 2012. PGA in particular hailed its National Group of parliamentarians in the CAR, which played an important role in the passage of the bill creating the court.

Civil society, including many members of the Coalition for the ICC, has long supported the creation of the special court as an important tool for combating impunity in the CAR.

Central African Republic
ICC prosecutors will call 11 witnesses to testify against Jean-Pierre Bemba and four others charged with witness tampering and forging evidence.A leaked internal UN report accuses French peacekeepers of raping and sexually abusing children in the CAR. A French prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations. Meanwhile, the UN warned that it has not received the funds it needs to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Kenya
Two editors for the Daily Nation were summoned by the government for reporting that a Kenyan intelligence officer was deported from the Netherlands after attempting to contact an ICC witness. Youth supporters of Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto clashed with supporters of a government adviser who Ruto claims wants him to be imprisoned by the ICC.

Darfur
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir won re-election in a vote denounced by the Darfur Bar Association and Darfur rebel groups. Following the election, Al-Bashir vowed to defeat rebel forces in Darfur. HRW criticized Sudan for a surge in detentions and arrests around the election.

Six people were killed in clashes between UNAMID peacekeepers and armed tribesmen in South Darfur. A peacekeeper injured in the attack died after the Sudanese government denied a request for an emergency medical evacuation. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that he is concerned over the increase in attacks on UN troops in the region, while Sudan accused peacekeepers of killing seven civilians and criticized UNAMID, the UN and the AU for not taking responsibility for the peacekeepers’ alleged crimes.

DRC
Congolese militia leader Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui’s lawyers appealed to ICC member states’ “sense of responsibility” after the Netherlands denied Ngudjolo’s asylum plea and moved forward with plans to deport him on 1 May. The Coalition for the ICC’s Wieteke Theeuwen explained why Ngudjolo’s asylum application was rejected.

Transitional justice expert Mattia Cacciatori outlined the tensions between pursuing either individual or collective reparations—a dilemma that the ICC faces in the DRC.

Uganda
Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice launched ‘Women’s Voices: A Call for Peace, Accountability and Reconciliation for the Greater North of Uganda.’

Libya
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the Libya Herald that she is happy that Abdullah Al-Senussi is being tried in Libya, but admitted that she has no information about how his trial is being conducted.

Mali

Mali’s main rebel group said that it will sign the peace accord next month, but IRIN reported that Mali’s peace process may be in danger due to ongoing violence. UN peacekeepers were attacked by Tuareg rebels outside Timbuktu, and peacekeepers in the city say that they have recently repelled at least two attacks. A landmine blast injured seven UN soldiers. Pro-government armed groups seized a town from Tuareg rebels in northern Mali.

Côte d’Ivoire
ICC judges noted their concern that Laurent Gbagbo has not been present at recent hearings. Media in Côte d’Ivoire reported that the trial of Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé was likely scheduled for 2016 in order to avoid the case being in the news during the country’s presidential elections (in French). Gbagbo’s political party will contest the elections in October.Ivoire Justice interviewed the president of the National Federation of Victims of Post-Election Crises, who said that, at the moment, there is victor’s justice in Côte d’Ivoire (in French).

Preliminary Examinations
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights’ (ECCHR) Andreas Schüller argued that the prosecution of alleged CIA torture in Afghanistan by the ICC would be an important step against impunity, but that trials in the US are the best option. HRW’s Ahmad Shuja called on the Afghan government to put human rights at the top of its agenda.

The ECCHR, Sisma Mujer and Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo submitted a criminal complaint to the ICC regarding allegations of sexual violence during Colombia’s 50-year conflict.

Nigeria‘s military said that it rescued 200 girls and 93 women from the Boko Haram, and later freed 160 more, but could not confirm if any of the hostages were those abducted from Chibok a year ago. Amnesty International called for the Nigerian government to provide the rescued abductees with medical and psycho-social support services, noting that victims of sexual and gender-based violence have a right to receive reparation. HRW’s David Mepham also urged Nigeria to provide them with support services. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were found dead in Damasak, Nigeria, after a suspected Boko Haram attack.

The American NGO Coalition for the ICC published a Q&A on the ICC and the situatiuon in Israel and Palestine. HRW’s Bill Van Esveld argued that the lack of credible investigations into last summer’s Gaza conflict by either Israeli or Palestinian authorities could cause the ICC to intervene. A UN report found that Israeli actions killed 44 people in UN shelters during last summer’s Gaza war, while Palestinian armed groups hid weapons in and fired from empty schools.

Ukraine is prepared to file a complaint to the ICC over Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

Campaign for Global Justice
Lawyers for Justice in Libya signed the Tunis declaration on changes needed to ensure that the Arab Court of Human Rights provides genuine access to justice. The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomed the Guatemalan government’s decision to extend the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.The UN and EU urged Iraq to join the ICC to allow for an investigation of ISIS. The head of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization said that Asian countries need to resolve and clarify domestic laws before considering ratifying the ICC Rome Statute.

What else is happening?
A new report from REDRESS addresses the challenges facing effective legal representation of victims at the ICC.

Two Foreign Policy columnists argued that there is growing anxiety in North Korea over international efforts to secure accountability for alleged human rights violations. International justice expert Kate Cronin-Furman argued that international pressure is crucial to secure accountability in Sri Lanka. Vice News reported on the challenges that Balkan wartime rape victims continue to face in pursuit for justice and reparations.

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