FIDH denounces the International Criminal Court inertia

Return of an international investigative mission to the Central African Republic.

An FIDH international investigative mission, led by its President Sidiki Kaba, was in Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) from 10 to 17 June 2006.

The FIDH delegation, accompanied by its member organisation the Central African League for Human Rights, met with President François Bozizé and with various government officials, judicial authorities, United Nations agencies and members of civil society.

« The situation of human rights in CAR is extremely worrying. The uninterrupted cycle of political and military violence, prevailing since 2001, plunges the civilian population into suffering », said Sidiki Kaba, back from his mission.

Numerous attacks by General Bozizé’s rebels and counter attacks by former President Ange-Félix Patassé’s loyalists between October 2002 and March 2003 have made numerous victims among civilians. FIDH was able to collect several testimonies of summary executions, rapes, and sexual enslavement, for which combattants from all parties are alledgly responsible. Those victims, living for the most part with the AIDS virus, have been stigmatised by both those in power and by their peers. Their legal remedies remained unsuccessful and they never received any type of reparation.

Today, the civilian population continues to be in danger. Security is a worrying matter as several rebel mouvements have been noticed in the north and the north-east of the country. These rebel groups, seemingly manipulated and financed by former supporters of Patassé’s regime as well as by authorities in Khartoum, enroll those former « liberators » that were cast out by General Bozizé after he came into power. Their aim is to overthrow the government in N’djamena and in Bangui. Since September 2005, rebel groups have attacked several towns on the border with Chad - Markounda, Kabo and Paoua in particular -, leading to reprisal by the CAR army. There are also violent clashes between regular armed forces and Abdoulay Miskine’s rebels in the town of Tiringoulou in the north-east. All these attacks constitute serious violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, as summary executions, rapes, pillaging and the destruction of villages were perpetrated. Because of these combats, over 20,000 persons have fled to Chad and the civilian population in the north has been hiding in the woods at the approach of armed groups. The population is under-nourished. The country’s economy is in ruins. « Human insecurity » is at its highest and there is a major risk that the fate of civilians becomes worse in the following weeks.

Central African judicial authorities have started prosecuting alleged members of rebel groups and some of their accomplices. Numerous members of former President Patassé’s political party are under scrutiny by the CAR Chief Prosecutor. Consequently, FIDH has insisted that judicial authorities remember the necessary respect of the rights of the defense and of the right to a fair trial for all those arrested in the framework of the armed conflict.

Additionally, FIDH has denounced the partiality of prosecutions, given that some members of the Central African armed forces, suspected of grave breaches of human rights perpetrated since September 2005, still enjoy impunity. This situation is reinforced by the absence of prosecution of perpetrators of international crimes committed between October 2002 and March 2003. FIDH reminds that, in April 2006, the Central African highest criminal court (Cour de Cassation) declared its inability - and thus unwillingness - to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes, in particular Ange-Félix Patassé, Jean-Pierre Bemba, Paul Barril, and Abdoulaye Miskine. It asked for the support of the ICC, interpellated by FIDH since February 2003, and triggered by CAR since December 2004.

On 15 June 2006, in Bangui, FIDH and its partner organisation, the Central African League for Human Rights, organised a workshop on « The Situation in CAR and the ICC ». This workshop brought up the systematic impunity for persons responsible for international crimes, seen as a main cause for the perpetration of such crimes. It has also underscored the imperative need for justice to both respond to the demands of victims and prevent the perpetration of new crimes. The inertia of the ICC was brought forward by all participants, who launched an appeal to the ICC Prosector to consider the gravity of the crimes committed, the inability of the Central African judicial system, and the major risks that these crimes be committed again, and thus to open an investigation.

While waiting for the Prosecutor’s decision, impunity prevails, insecurity remains, and the victims of these horrific crimes become victims of indifference.

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