Central African Republic investigated
22 May 2007, THE HAGUE (AP) - The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into alleged atrocities - particularly rape - in the Central African Republic, the court's prosecutor announced Tuesday.
22 May 2007
THE HAGUE (AP) - The International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into alleged atrocities - particularly rape - in the Central African Republic, the court's prosecutor announced Tuesday.
The Hague-based court will focus its probe on crimes committed between 2002 and 2003, but Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he also was concerned at continuing violence in the country, especially near its borders with Chad and Sudan.
"In the interests of deterring future violence and promoting enduring peace in the region, we have a duty to show that massive crimes cannot be committed with impunity," Moreno-Ocampo said.
Central African Republic has suffered decades of army revolts, coups and rebellions since it gained independence from France in 1960. Poor and landlocked, the nation of 3.6 million is governed by President Francois Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 rebel war.
Prosecutors first began analyzing possible war crimes in the Central African Republic in January 2005 at the request of the country's government and after its highest court acknowledged that the local judiciary was incapable of investigating and prosecuting the alleged crimes itself.
That analysis uncovered widespread killings, but also a huge number of sexual violence cases.
"The allegations of sexual crimes are detailed and substantiated," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. "The information we have now suggests that the rape of civilians was committed in numbers that cannot be ignored under international law."
The court said that hundreds of women have reported being raped, "recounting crimes acted out with particular cruelty."
In statements passed to prosecutors, "victims described being raped in public; being attacked by multiple perpetrators; being raped in the presence of family members; and being abused in other ways if they resisted their attackers," the court said.
"These victims are calling for justice," said Moreno-Ocampo.
Tuesday's announcement comes just weeks after one rebel group signed a peace accord with the government and agreed to demobilize hundreds of child soldiers.
In other cases, the court recently issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and a Janjaweed militia leader for their alleged role in atrocities in the Sudanese province of Darfur. Neither man has yet been arrested.
The court also has launched investigations and named suspects in Congo and Uganda.
So far the court, which has no police force to arrest suspects, has only one person in its detention unit, former Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, who faces allegations of recruiting child soldiers. No date has been set for his trial.
[Copyright AP 2007]
Subject: Dutch news