ICC to Open Investigation into Central African Republic (Again)
February 8, 2014
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ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced this weekend that her office will be opening an investigation into the violence occurring in the Central African Republic. The investigation will be looking into the conflict that began in late 2012 between the Central African Republic government and the rebel group Seleka. The situation escalated in March of this past year when the rebel group ousted president François Bozizé in a coup. Since then, the violence has continued, as violence and pillaging from rebel groups has prompted the formation of local militias. The violence is occurring largely on religious lines, as the rebel groups are primarily Muslims, and the local militias primarily Christian. Bensouda has cited claims of killings, sexual violence, and other acts of war crimes and brutalities as reason to investigate. The CAR is a member state of the Rome Statute, therefore this falls under the ICC’s jurisdiction, and Bensouda has not specified if there is a particular side of the conflict that will be investigated. Bensouda has also said that, in following the principle of complementarity, the ICC will be working with the CAR to look into domestic solutions to bring perpetrators to justice.
What makes this case particularly interesting is the fact that this is not the first ICC investigation into the Central African Republic. In 2007, the ICC also opened investigation into the CAR. At that time, it was a self-referral by the CAR government, which deemed itself unable to properly prosecute offenders of the violence that happened in 2002 and 2003 between Christian and Muslim militia groups. The investigation drew international attention, as it was the first ICC investigation to focus on sexual violence as the primary crime. The investigation resulted in the arrest of former CAR Vice President Jean-Pierre Bamba, who was arrested and is currently awaiting trial in the Hague.
This second ICC investigation into the CAR brings up questions regarding the effectiveness of the ICC, particularly in regards to its goal of providing deterrence. The 2007 investigation and the arrest of Jean-Pierre Bamba failed to stop the violence in the region, and the crimes being investigated this time around are more or less the same that were the center of the previous investigation. While the arrest of Bamba does make it seem as though the ICC is succeeding on the front of providing justice and preventing impunity for atrocities that have occurred, the CAR’s relapse into violence is a clear marker of how it is failing to deter future atrocities.