The level of impunity in the Central African Republic (CAR) is alarming as suspects of serious war crimes, such as rape and murder, are left to go scot-free, while others continue to live side by side with their victims, according to Amnesty International. The human rights organization attributes the increasing level of immunity for criminals to the collapsed justice system in the central African nation.
“This is impunity on a staggering scale and it is undermining efforts to rebuild CAR and create a sustainable peace,” Amnesty International said in its recent report.
The rights group is now calling for the establishment of the Special Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute those who are suspected of committing serious war crimes in the ongoing conflict.
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The organization is also demanding a major investment in CAR’s justice system, including rebuilding its courts, police force, and prisons.
“In the meantime, sustainable funding for the Special Criminal Court, including robust witness protection programs, is an essential step towards justice,” reads the report.
Long Wait for Justice
Amnesty International reveals how dozens of people suspected to have committed war crimes and other human rights abuses have avoided investigation and arrest.
The organization blames the lack of accountability on the inability of the UN’s peacekeeping force and the government of CAR to handle serious cases that involve war crimes.
CAR’s justice system, which was already weak before the civil war, has been badly undermined by continued fighting, which has resulted in many court records being destroyed and legal personnel forced into exile.
“None [suspected perpetrators] have been arrested or prosecuted and such a climate of impunity only reassures the perpetrators,” an activist based in the country told Amnesty International.
Although CAR’s authorities, with the help of the UN peacekeeping force, have managed to arrest 384 people for crimes related to the conflict between 2014 and 2016, the organization says the number only includes a handful of high-profile individuals suspected of committing the most serious crimes.
At least 130 of those arrested escaped from prison in 2015 and are suspected to be involved in the latest series of attacks, including the incident in Kaga-Bandoro in October when ex-Seleka militia killed 37 civilians.
Ongoing Civil War
The civil war in CAR is an ongoing conflict between government forces and the Seleka rebel coalition.
The conflict started in December 2012 after rebels accused the government of President Francois Bozize of failing to abide by peace agreements agreed upon in 2007 and 2011 following a deadly bush war.
Thousands of people, mainly civilians, have died and hundreds of thousands of others forced to flee their homes since the conflict began.