Failure to investigate war crimes fuels violence and fear in Central African Republic

The failure of the Central African Republic (CAR) authorities and the United Nations to effectively investigate war crimes is perpetuating the cycle of violence and fear in the country, Amnesty International said in a report today. 
 
Central African Republic: Impunity is fuelling violence, based on findings by Amnesty International researchers to CAR, details how some leaders and members of armed groups have continued to commit further atrocities and defy the rule of law. 
 
This is despite Amnesty publishing evidence earlier this year that named 20 individuals, including anti-balaka (mainly Christian) and Seleka (mainly Muslim) commanders, suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses committed in CAR since December last year. 
 
Now Amnesty can reveal that some of these men have been implicated in carrying out further crimes between September and October this year. 
 

Named suspected war criminals

Among those who Amnesty previously named who continue to benefit from CAR’s climate of impunity are: 
 
  • Patrice- Edouard Ngaïssona, a former government minister and self-proclaimed coordinator of the anti-balaka armed groups. According to multiple sources, Ngaïssona continues to coordinate activities of many anti-balaka in CAR, including a number involved in the killing of civilians and attacks on international forces during a significant increase in violence in October 2014. Anti-balaka armed groups under his control were suspected of committing serious human rights abuses including killings of civilians in Bangui. Despite a mandate for his arrest for “crimes against humanity and incitation to genocide” issued by the previous government, and confirmed by the current transitional authorities, Ngaïssona continues to play a high-profile role in political negotiations with the authorities. 

 

  • “Colonel Douze Puissances”, an anti-balaka commander who, according to a range of sources including witnesses and survivors, led a group of fighters who killed three civilians, badly injured at least 20 more, and burnt down 28 houses and a church in the Nguingo neighbourhood of Bangui on 14 October.   “Colonel Douze Puissances” has previously been named by Amnesty as suspected of having been involved in human rights abuses in December 2013, when he was in charge of groups of anti-balaka fighters in the Boy-Rabe area of Bangui. 
 
  • Alfred Yekatom, alias “Rambo”, an anti-balaka commander active around the Bimbo area of Bangui. According to multiple local sources, “Rambo” attacked the Bimbo police station on 29 October, stealing equipment and freeing at least five prisoners.  Amnesty had previously named ‘Rambo’ as being suspected of the killing of civilians and recruitment of child soldiers in Mbaiki, 105 km from Bangui, between December 2013 and May 2014. 
 
Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa, Steve Cockburn said:
“The failure to hold accountable those implicated in the killing of civilians, the use of child soldiers and the burning of villages means they are not only able to walk free, but also to continue terrorising the population without fear of repercussions. 
 
“Rather than fearing prosecution or punishment, those suspected of war crimes too often see violence as a way of achieving power, resources or protection from justice. Unless there is an end to impunity in CAR, serious human rights violations will continue unabated.
 
“The UN and the CAR authorities must act urgently to ensure all those suspected of committing crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, are promptly, independently and effectively investigated. To make this happen, the international community needs to get behind the promised Special Criminal Court and ensure it is operational without delay.” 
 
Amnesty has called for investigations to be launched and for a special ‘hybrid court’- bringing together national and international judges. It also called for the strengthening of national courts and investigations by the International Criminal Court.  Although the UN and CAR authorities have agreed to set up a Special Criminal Court along the lines of the ‘hybrid court’, it is yet to become functional due to a lack of funding. 
 
The enabling legislation that establishes this court must meet international standards and ensure that the court is in practice independent, impartial and effective. Both the UN and the CAR authorities must consult widely, including with civil society organizations, on the enabling legislation and the composition of the proposed “Special Criminal Court” to ensure that these standards are met. 

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