5,000 victims of Bemba’s crimes in Central African Republic anxiously await reparation

© FIDH

(Paris, The Hague) As the ICC is soon expected to deliver its reparation order for the 5,229 victims who participated in the Bemba proceedings, FIDH is publishing the results of an investigation conducted among a dozen of these victims in the Central African Republic (CAR). Most of them have lost everything, and continue to live with the physical and psychological consequences of the crimes, horrors and traumas they have experienced. They insist that their compensation be paid to them individually and be accompanied by awareness-raising sessions to make people more sensitive to the problem of stigmatisation. The long-awaited reparations are still an exception in a country that is ravaged by impunity and that continues to be the target of violent conflicts and sexual crimes committed by militias and armed groups.

An FIDH delegation traveled to CAR from 9 to 16 June to meet victims of sexual violence and attacks by troops loyal to Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was sentenced in May 2016 by the ICC to 18 years in prison. The victims came from Bangui, Sibut, Moungoumba, Damara and Bossangoa, and had all partipated in the court proceedings against J.P. Bemba before the ICC.

The report highlights that fifteen years after the events, the 2002/2003 victims are still extremely poor and continue to live in distress. Some victims have lost everything (loved ones, support, belongings…), many are ill (having contracted HIV/AIDS from the rapes) and are suffering physical and psychological harm. They are also ostracised, shunned, and rejected, and their partners, loved ones, and the community are ashamed of them. All the women interviewed have been abandoned by their husbands and are raising their children alone. The children, because they have also been victims or witnesses, or were born as a result of rape, are also excluded. These stigmas prevent the survivors from reconstructing their lives and from returning to a semblance of normal life, fifteen years after the events.

With the attempts to pursue justice in CAR having failed, the ICC conviction was "the notable exception" to the overwhelming impunity that prevails in the country, where the judicial and penal systems have collapsed. It is now up to the ICC to determine who will be eligible for reparation, volumes and nature, considering the limited funds available.

If, for the first time for victims in CAR, reparations are indeed awarded, the victims insist that the reparations be given to them on an individual basis – possibly in the form of cash to enable them to have access to health services, education, employment, lodging... Victims argue not to receive reparations through State-run communal projects, because of the rampant corruption throughout the country. They are also asking for awareness-raising programmes to mitigate the stigmatisation against them.

Lastly, although the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) has been set up at the ICC to assist the people affected, the victims interviewed want reparations to be paid directly by Jean-Pierre Bemba as well.

On 21 June 2016 the ICC sentenced JP Bemba, a former warlord and ex-vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo to 18 years in prison for the crimes committed by his troops between October 2002 and March 2003 in CAR. They had been sent to defend former President Ange-Félix Patassé from an attempted coup d’état by François Bozizé, who became nonetheless the country’s president in March 2003.

His troops were particularly known for committing horrors and crimes against humanity. They used sexual violence on a massive scale to terrorise and humiliate people, to tear families and social circles apart, and to destroy any community thought to be part of the rebellion.

Read the report



Background: FIDH involvement in CAR and in the Bemba case

FIDH has a permanent office in Bangui. It works closely with the two Central African FIDH member organisations: the Central African Human Rights League (LCDH) and the Central African Human Rights Observatory (OCDH).

FIDH has worked since 2002 with LCDH to document the crimes committed between October 2002 and March 2003 and has been advocating against the impunity of these crimes and for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Between 2002 and 2006, FIDH and LCDH conducted four investigative missions to document war crimes and crimes against humanity, including crimes of sexual violence committed between 2002 and 2003.

At the same time, between 2005 and 2008, FIDH organized several information-sharing and strategy meetings at ICC headquarters in The Hague between representatives of its member organisations, the Office of the Prosecutor and Registry of the ICC.

FIDH continues to work to document the crimes in CAR and to combat impunity. FIDH has carried out several missions to document the crimes perpetrated, in particular between summer 2013 and February 2014, requesting that the ICC open an investigation, which was finally announced on 24 September 2014. FIDH is working with the Office of the Prosecutor on the investigations under way and has also worked to have the Special Criminal Court put in place to break the cycle of impunity in CAR. In this regard, FIDH has opened a joint office with its member organisations in Bangui to support the victims in gaining access to justice, in particular the justice of the Special Criminal Court.
Press Contact :
Audrey Couprie
acouprie@fidh.org
+ 33 6 48 05 91 57
@AudreyCouprie
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