ICC formally probes 'endless list' of C.Africa atrocities

24th September 2014, Comments 1 comment

The International Criminal Court has opened a formal investigation into an "endless list" of atrocities committed in the Central African Republic, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Wednesday.

"My office has gathered and scrupulously analysed relevant information from multiple reliable sources," Bensouda said in a statement.

The move comes after a preliminary ICC investigation earlier this year into the violence that has plagued the country for over 18 months established that there were grounds to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"My office has gathered and scrupulously analysed relevant information from multiple reliable sources," Bensouda said in a statement.

"Based on this independent and comprehensive analysis, I have concluded that an investigation is warranted."

The country plunged into conflict after a coup in March 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, which overthrew president Francois Bozize and made their own man, Michel Djotodia, head of state.

Influential foreign leaders in January forced Djotodia to step down after he proved incapable of preventing widespread atrocities by rogue Seleka fighters.

Communities from Central Africa's mainly Christian majority responded by setting up vigilante forces known as "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) to seek vengeance, mostly targeting Muslim civilians whom they accused of backing Seleka.

- Child soldiers -

Bensouda said there was "a reasonable basis to believe that both the Seleka and the anti-balaka groups have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes."

The include murder, rape, forced displacement, persecution and using child soldiers, she said.

"The list of atrocities is endless," Bensouda said. "I cannot ignore these alleged crimes.

"My office will now work to directly collect criminal evidence with a view to identifying and prosecuting those responsible for the most serious crimes."

Daily looting, killing and raping raised global fears of a new Somalia-style "failed state" in the heart of Africa and sparked the launch in December 2013 of a military operation by former colonial power France.

Thousands have been killed and around a quarter of the country's 4.6 million people displaced since the start of the fighting in the Central African Republic.

- Justice for victims -

"An impartial enquiry to identify those responsible for the most serious crimes from all parties is crucial to bring justice to the victims and send a clear signal to all perpetrators that they may be held to account," said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch.

"We look to the international community and the CAR authorities to lend their full support and cooperation to this investigation," Dicker, the head of HRW's international justice programme, said in an email to AFP.

The ICC has already been investigating violence committed in the Central African Republic more than a decade ago by the former vice president of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country larger than France that already ranked as one of the world's poorest before 2013 despite sitting on huge mineral deposits.

"Mass crimes shock the conscience of humanity and tear at the social fabric of society," said Bensouda.

"Let this be a message to would-be perpetrators in CAR and beyond: such crimes will not be tolerated and will be met with the full force of the law."

A new UN mission took charge of peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic last week, tasked with ending ethnic and religious bloodshed and restoring stability. It will eventually consist of 12,000 soldiers and police officers.

© 2014 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • carrico posted:

    on 25th September 2014, 14:04:29 - Reply

    Isn't there pan African military cooperation?