Central African Republic: MINUSCA and Complementary Justice Mechanisms

As the United Nations recently took over the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), calls for imminent justice were made earlier this week by Human Rights Groups.

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014 ©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UN Secretary-General meets with internally displaced people camped near the airport in Bangui, Central African Republic, 5 April 2014
©UN Photo/Evan Schneider

MINUSCA officially started its mission on 15 September 2014. Adopted by the Security Council in April 2014, Resolution 2149 gives mandate to MINUSCA to ensure the security of the civilian population, contribute significantly to the establishment of the rule of law with the redeployment of the public services and help to fight against impunity. This force deployment, in majority composed of the African forces of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) placed under UN command, must continue until April 2015, date on which the mission should reach the total number of 10 000 soldiers and 2 000 policemen.

“MINUSCA must guarantee the security of the civilian populations, who remain under the threat of the anti-balaka and ex-séleka armed groups, and prevent the break-up of the country while also guaranteeing the return of the refugees and displaced persons. MINUSCA has the tough assignment of helping the Central African government to promote a political agreement and over time help organise elections while fighting impunity, which are the conditions for a national reconciliation”- Karim Lahidji, President of the International Federation for Human Rights.

In the meantime, and while anti-balaka and ex-seleka continue to commit atrocities in a low-intensity conflict context, steps were taken to ensure investigation into serious human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators. Following the creation of a special investigation and instruction unit (cellule spéciale d’enquête et d’instruction – CSEI) in April to investigate and prosecute those responsible for human rights crimes, the transition President of the Central African Republic Mrs. Catherine Catherine Samba-Panza formally seized the International Criminal Court in June. The Situation of the Central African Republic II was referred to Pre-Trial Chamber II and is currently under preliminary examination.

“The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court must now announce the opening of an investigation in this country without delay to send a strong signal to the belligerents in the field and prevent the loss of proofs and testimonies” – Joseph Bindoumi, President of the Central African Human Rights League (LCDH).

As investigations by the ICC will only cover the most serious crimes, a complementary mechanism is currently being designed. On 8 August 2014, the United Nations and the government of the Central African Republic signed a memorandum of understanding providing for the creation of a Special Criminal Court (CCS) composed of Central African and international judges mandated to investigate the international crimes perpetrated in the Central African Republic and bring those responsible to justice. The Special Criminal Court, which would take over the mandate of the CSEI, will however only be created and operational once a specific law is adopted by the National Transitional Council (CNT), the transition national assembly.

“The main challenge in the Central African Republic is to fight against impunity and judge those who give criminal orders. The International Criminal Court will contribute to these objectives but we need a complementary mechanism of justice in Central Africa to judge all the others, and the MINUSCA must contribute to this” – Mathias Morouba, President of the Central African Observatory for Human Rights and legal advisor to the International Criminal Court for the Central African Republic.

“We call on the CNT to create this Special Criminal Court as soon as possible because it would be a vital step forward for the victims and for the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic,” said FIDH judicial action head and honorary president Patrick Baudouin. “The United Nations and international donors say they are ready to fund this special court, so they must quickly commit themselves to give it the necessary resources, including for the international judges, so as to stop the cycle of impunity and make sure new crimes are not committed.”