It was to be a historic day, a turning point for justice in this country where injustice and impunity have reigned unchallenged for decades. Alas, it was a tragicomedy as the Central African Republic has the secret, and a new insult for the populations forced to suffer the recurrent carelessness of its elites.
Inaugurated seven years after its creation
Tuesday, April 19, the first trial of war criminals before the Special Criminal Court (CPS) opened in Bangui under the drums and trumpets of Central African officials. Created in 2015 with the help of the UN to try war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003 in this landlocked country in Central Africa, it took seven years for this court to finally hold his first trial.
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Composed of national and international judges and prosecutors from France, Togo and the DRC, among others, the CPS was to start by trying three members of the notorious rebel group the “3Rs”: a militia that rages in the west of the country and known for committing appalling mass killings, war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially against the Fulani.
Boycott of defense lawyers
For the occasion, the Minister of Justice himself went to the CPS to celebrate “a historic day” ! At his side, a representative of the International Criminal Court (ICC) went further by describing the holding of this trial as an achievement and by recalling that the SCC is the only judicial institution in the world to try crimes committed in an ongoing conflict. .
This hearing represented “a historic moment for the victims of the Central African Republic who have continued to demand justice for the heinous crimes committed during the successive conflicts in the countrysays Esti Tambay, senior legal adviser in the international justice program at Human Rights Watch. This ground-breaking tribunal – which combines international and national experiences to hold accountable those responsible for serious crimes – has the potential to become an important model of justice that other countries could adopt,” she hoped.
But barely had the trial begun, Aimé-Pascal Delimo, president of the CPS assize chamber, could only observe “the absence” defense lawyers. According to witnesses, the latter defected at the very last minute, plunging Aimé-Pascal Delimo and his colleagues into embarrassment. “We adjourn the hearing for a remand on April 25,” he announced.
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Why weren’t these lawyers in the newly inaugurated courtroom? A problem of unpaid compensation, according to witnesses. Committed, they had not received their compensation to defend their clients accused, all the same, of having killed 46 civilians in May 2019 in villages in the north-west of the country.
The insincerity of the Central African government
This adjournment is not likely to reassure the effectiveness of the CPS, especially since the Central African regime does not seem sincerely mobilized, as evidenced by the time elapsed between its creation and its inauguration.
Another example is the attitude of the authorities during the arrest and indictment of the Minister of Livestock, Hassan Bouba, by the CPS in November. Former leader of the rebel group UPC (Unit for Peace in the Central African Republic), this minister is suspected of having led the attack on a camp for displaced people in November 2018, killing at least 112 villagers, including 19 children. The Presidential Guard released him from jail and drove him home as the CPS awaited him for a custody hearing! A few days later, President Touadéra even decorated him with the Medal of the Order of Merit. And since then, he is no longer worried by justice.