The Quest Towards Accountability - Central African Republic
Central African Republic (CAR), deeply unstable since its independence, has been ravaged by a full-scale civil war since 2013. Impunity, political unrest, human rights violations and violence have increased, resulting in a protracted humanitarian crisis. Despite the recent relatively peaceful elections in 2016 and the peace talks in June 2017, levels of insecurity and violence have intensified, especially in central and north-western regions. Thousands have been victims of human rights abuses and are still waiting for justice, whilst perpetrators roam free. A lack of accountability has been undermining the efforts to rebuild CAR and achieve sustainable peace, and has fuelled abuse and instability. The national justice system has become weak during the conflict, giving little possibility of anyone being found legally liable. In June 2015, however, CAR Parliament passed a landmark bill (Act No. 15.003) establishing the Special Criminal Court (SCC) to investigate and bring to court perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which have taken place in the country since 2003. The hybrid court, mimicking the Sierra Leonean SCSL and Cambodian ECCC, is now in the process of becoming operational. Progress has been slow and, despite the step forward made in the past 5 months, questions regarding the achievability of SCC’s mandate remain unanswered as the court’s path is fraught with obstacles.
Issues of funding remain pressing. Of the 7 million dollars required to support SCC’s operations in its first 14 months, only 5.4 have been acquired. The commitments to support the court after its initial period appear scarce, leaving it open to potential financial crises, similar to those faced by the SCSL and the ECCC. Financial and logistical support will play a pivotal role in the success or failure of SCC’s operations given the high expenditures required by international and hybrid tribunals.
CAR is plagued by a highly unstable climate, a product of the ongoing conflict. Despite the signing of the Sant’Egidio accords in June 2017, violence and fighting remain widespread. Such instability might seriously hinder the work of the SCC. Apart from investigations and arrests, outreach operations will play a fundamental role in assuring a positive impact of the SCC. Instability, a deeply divided society, lack of understanding and/or trust of the national justice system, makes outreach both challenging and essential; the potential lack of financial support might seriously impinge on the possibility of running a successful outreach program.
Whether the quest towards ending impunity in Central African Republic will succeed is currently uncertain to say. Indeed the SCC has come a long way since its establishment in 2015, but the road ahead remains fraught with obstacles and uncertainties. Significant challenges remain; and although international support remains vital, commitments from the international community appear scarce. Despite such challenges and a rocky road ahead, the SCC represents the only hope for victims to achieve justice and a fundamental opportunity for the international community to reiterate and reinstate international standards. Apart from being a moral duty towards the victims, the quest towards the SCC represents a chance to reinforce the international regime of accountability in the region, and for this very chance it shall not be missed by international actors. Amidst violence, abuse and debate of further developments, the long wait for justice continues.
This blog post was written by Nicola Carradori, who is STAND UK's Campaigns Coordinator and is currently completing his masters in Politics of Conflict, Rights & Justice at SOAS, University of London.