Despite a renewed peace deal signed in February, armed groups continue to commit atrocities.

The Central African Republic (CAR)’s Special Criminal Court is deciding which cases it will begin hearing, eight months after its inauguration in Bangui, Radio France Internationale reports. The cases include human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law – including war crimes and genocide – committed since 2003.

“By the end of [2020], the examination of the first cases could end and result in trials,” court president Michel Louanga said during a news conference.

The United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU)-backed court was inaugurated in October 2018 to look into abuses in the CAR, considered one of the most unstable countries in the world.

Prosecutor Toussaint Muntazini said the court has instituted three cases, while four other cases are in their beginning stages. No specifics on what cases are being examined have been revealed, however.

“Given the sensitive nature of the investigations as well as the unstable nature of security throughout the national territory, the highest level of confidentiality is needed,” said the court.

“Those who have committed bloody crimes must appear before national and international justice,” said Justice Minister Flavien Mbata.

Twenty-five judges will preside over the court, including 13 Central Africans and 12 foreigners. The UN and EU created the €61m budget for the court.

Although the former French colony had already been unstable since longtime president Francois Bozize came to power through a 2003 coup, after he was deposed in 2013 by Seleka rebels, reports of human rights abuses grew.

The UN published a report in 2017 that characterised some of “the most abominable kind” of crimes, carried out between 2003 and 2015 by various rebel groups throughout the country.

A breakthrough earlier in 2019 was the eighth peace deal since 2013, signed by 14 armed groups in Khartoum, Sudan.

The country has been at the mercy of armed groups who are aiming to control the gold, diamond, and oil resources, causing widespread internal displacement of more than 650,000 people. After a period of internal displacement, some 27,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, including Chad.

CAR children
“Child-friendly spaces” like this one to the north of the country provide a sanctuary and some safety from violence. Image: CC 2013

Although the government, armed groups and civil society representatives are all taking part in the process that followed the signing of the new peace deal in February, civilians continue to suffer daily acts of violence, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council on June 20th.

In a briefing, Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the UN Mission to the country, MINUSCA, made reference to the “cowardly killing” of 39 people by members of the “3R” armed group – one of the signatories to the accord – in the Ouham-Pendé region of the country on May 21st, which led to some 12,000 people being displaced from their homes, according to the UN news service.

Following a joint mission of the UN, African Union (AU) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECOWAS), the leader of the 3R group committed to collaborate with the investigations into the killings.

MINUSCA, Ndiaye told the Council, also launched a military operation in western CAR, designed to improve the protection of the civilian population, prevent new attacks or reprisals and stop armed activity in the region.

Following the operation, three members of 3R were arrested in connection with the May 21st killings. Nevertheless, he continued, the security situation remains fragile, with between 50 and 70 violations of the peace accord reported every week. These include violence against civilians, illegal taxes, and the occupation of public buildings.

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Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Central African Republic: Village Massacres
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 56, Issue 5 – June 2019

Central African Republic: Peace Accord
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 56, Issue 4 – May 2019

Central African Republic: New Inclusive Cabinet
Political, Social and Cultural series
Vol. 56, Issue 3 – April 2019

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