Central African Republic: a first trial for a Special Criminal Court in search of legitimacy

Published on: 04/18/2022 – 17:28 Composed of Central African and international judges, the Special Criminal Court (SCC), created in 2015 with the support of the UN, opens its first trial on Tuesday in Bangui after a long and strewn journey pitfalls. If this new jurisdiction constitutes for some a model to be exported to other countries in civil war, it is also the subject of many criticisms for its lack of efficiency. It will have the difficult task of shedding light on possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in the Central African Republic. The Special Criminal Court (CPS) gets to the heart of the matter, Tuesday, April 19, in Bangui, with the holding of a first trial. In the dock: Issa Sallet Adoum, Ousman Yaouba and Tahir Mahamat. Members of one of the most powerful armed groups – the 3R, for “return, claim and rehabilitation” – which have been terrorizing populations for years, they are suspected of having participated in the massacre of 46 civilians in villages in the north-west of the country. This first trial will be a crucial test for the CPS, a hybrid tribunal composed of national and international magistrates, notably from France, Togo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For the NGO Human Rights Watch, the CPS must make it possible “to widen the field of people who will be held accountable for the atrocities committed”, beyond the two ongoing investigations carried out by the International Criminal Court in this country. ravaged by decades of civil war and two-thirds of whose territory is controlled by armed groups. The challenge promises to be considerable for this jurisdiction which is struggling to assert its authority against President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Re-elected at the end of 2020 in a context of growing insecurity, the Central African head of state is at odds with Western countries, who accuse him of having delivered the country to Russia in exchange for the protection of the militiamen of the Wagner group. “The escape” of Hassan BoubaAn episode vividly illustrates the distrust that exists between the CPS, supported by the UN and supported by Minusca, and the Central African government. Last November, the Minister of Livestock, Hassan Bouba, was arrested by CPS police officers. This former rebel leader is suspected of having played a role in the attack on a displacement camp in November 2018 which resulted in the death of at least 112 villagers, including 19 children. >> To see: “Me, antibalaka” by Florent Kassaï, a comic strip on the civil war in the Central African Republic While he was to be presented to a magistrate, the presidential guard prevented access to the detention center and the minister was finally escorted home. “An organized escape”, protested human rights defenders in an op-ed published in the newspaper Le Monde. President Touadéra, which caused an outcry within the opposition. Questioned by Jeune Afrique, the entourage of the Head of State denounced at the time “an” instrumentalization “of the CPS and “a “manipulation”, ensuring that the Ministry of Justice was not informed of the procedure “The CPS is coming up against obstacles erected by the government, perfectly illustrated by the Hassan Bouba case”, deplores Nicolas Tiangaye, lawyer and spokesperson for the Democratic Opposition Coalition 20-20 (COD 20-20). , which brings together almost all the unarmed opposition parties. This incredible episode raises serious doubts about the will of the Central African government to fight against impunity, a fundamental demand of the population during the Bangui Forum, a vast consultation organized in 2015 to find ways of dialogue and reconciliation in this battered country. Ensuring the execution of arrest warrants, a challenge If the CPS is praised by some as a model of justice to be exported to other countries in the midst of war civil or related wind, others doubt its effectiveness as it took so long to open its first trial and so much it struggles to have its decisions respected. “The decisions of the judges must be applied by other entities, there are at least 25 ‘stop, but neither Minusca nor the Central African authorities are executing them even though it is part of their mandate”, underlines Alice Banens, legal adviser at Amnesty International. “The real question now is whether our warrants, including those intended to big fish, will be executed”, admits to AFP the Central African President of the Court, Michel Landry Louanga. Beyond these difficulties, the CPS suffers from faulty logistics which partly explains the extreme slowness of its establishment. The Court must do a lot with little: with a budget of only 14 million dollars (approximately 13 million euros) in 2022, the court has relatively limited means.”The situation of the SCC is particular: it is a court that works while there are still clashes. Our detractors forget it”, pleads President Louanga. “Despite everything, we manage to mount war crimes proceedings, and it doesn’t happen anywhere else. There are no comparisons in the world.” With AFP