CAR: Justice efforts weakened by the non-execution of arrest warrants

Gael GRILHOT / AFP

5 august 2022. Since 2002, the Central African Republic is plagued by repeated instability periods, security crises and armed conflicts. Many crimes under international law and serious human rights violations are perpetrated every day against the civilian population and between armed groups. Despite this, few officials have been brought before national or international judges. Justice efforts have been hampered by rampant insecurity, lack of resources, limited political will, and many other obstacles. Among these, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Observatoire centrafricain des droits de l’homme (OCDH) and the Ligue centrafricaine des droits de l’homme (LCDH) particularly deplore the non-execution of arrest warrants issued by the competent national and international courts.

For a long time impunity prevailed in CAR, however in recent years significant justice efforts led to progress in terms of the fight against impunity:
- sentencing by ordinary courts for war crimes and crimes against humanity ;
- creation of the Special Criminal Court (SCC) responsible for dealing specifically with the most serious crimes perpetrated on the territory ;
- or proceedings initiated by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against three anti-balakas (here and here) and a Seleka member.

Despite numerous obstacles, missed opportunities, delays and shortcomings, these advances reflect both a national and international commitment. FIDH, OCDH and LCDH welcome these efforts which have been continued in 2022. The monitoring of the situation in CAR and the commitment to the victims, in particular by deploying documentation missions giving rise to public reports remains central.

A few months after the arrest and transfer of anti-balaka leader Maxime Mokom to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the opening of the SCC’s first-ever trial against members of the rebel group 3R (Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation), the two institutions remain active. On 15 July 2022, Idriss Ibrahim Issa (alias Ben Laden) was brought before the SCC judges and charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes (unspecified). Two weeks later, the ICC made public a redacted version of the warrant issued under seal in January 2019 against Mahamat Nouradine Adam for crimes against humanity (imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution, forced disappearance and other inhumane acts) and war crimes (torture and cruel treatment). These two influential members of the Séléka had been identified by our organisations during documentation activities for their involvement in numerous abuses perpetrated by the group in 2013.

Non-execution of arrest warrants: an obstacle in the fight against impunity

Although our organisations welcome such progress, certain concerns remain. The arrest warrants for Idriss Ibrahim Issa and Mahamat Nouradine Adam were respectively issued in September 2020 (SCC) and January 2019 (ICC). It therefore took almost two years for the former to be arrested while the latter remains free - despite the international arrest warrant against him and his placement on the list of individuals under sanction by the UN.

The non-execution of arrest warrants issued by national and international judicial institutions constitutes a major obstacle in the fight against impunity for perpetrators of crimes under international law and serious violations of human rights committed in the Central African Republic. It demonstrates a cooperation that is, at best, patchy and selective, which prefers impunity and encourages targeted persons to continue their criminal activities. It is essential that the competent authorities, especially the Central African authorities, respect their international obligations and execute the arrest warrants that reach them, so that justice will be done for the thousands of victims still waiting.

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statement