What prospects for justice in the Central African Republic?

Barbara Debout / AFP

4 October 2022 - 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) published a report on the state of justice in the Central African Republic (CAR). In this report , the organisations analyse the complementarity between national and international justice mechanisms competent to deal with international crimes and serious violations of human rights committed in CAR and propose a series of recommendations for a more complete, lasting and effective justice system for victims and survivors.
The report is also available in french

In this country, plagued by almost constant instability for over 20 years, several mechanisms in the fight against impunity are competent to deal with international crimes perpetrated on the territory: ordinary courts of common law, a hybrid and specialised court, the Special Criminal Court (SCC) and an international jurisdiction, the International Criminal Court (ICC). In addition to these mechanisms, there are other actors likely to play a significant role and contribute to justice efforts, in particular the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (CVJRR).

Whilst the CVJRR is slow to fulfil its mandate, notable progress must be welcomed before the other mechanisms:
 on 26 September 2022, the trial of Mr Saïd, ex-Séléka, opened before the ICC in The Hague, one of four Central African suspects currently on trial at the ICC ;
 on the same day, a new suspect, Mr Vianney Semndiro, was indicted for crimes against humanity and heard by the SCC, which held its first (late but highly anticipated) trial from April to August 2022, the verdict of which is expected end of October ;
 and convictions for crimes under international law have been handed down in recent years by the Central African Republic’s ordinary courts.

How do the mandates of these different mechanisms complement each other? How do they cooperate and what complementarity exists in practice?

Whilst this unusual situation might be seen as an unprecedented opportunity to fight against the impunity that has reigned for too long in the country, the report shows that in practice many obstacles remain to achieve meaningful justice for the thousands of victims still waiting, whether internal to each institution or due to the lack of exchanges, cooperation and support between various mechanisms.

This report therefore offers an analysis of the state and challenges of complementarity between these various competent actors in CAR. It is based on research carried out over several years, the long-standing engagement of FIDH and its member organisations with Central African victims and a series of consultations carried out in June and July 2022 with representatives of civil society (local and international), journalists, academics as well as lawyers, magistrates and other staff of relevant judicial institutions.

For complete, effective and sustainable justice in CAR, all competent and relevant actors must cooperate and complement each other. They must do so in a credible, effective, transparent and meaningful way, while respecting the independence of each institution and ensuring that victims retain their central role.

This report thus concludes its analysis with a series of recommendations aimed at improving the implementation of this crucial complementarity and, a fortiori, justice efforts in CAR.

Read the report in french or english (below):

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