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Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) government referred itself to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 22 December 2004. This was the third self-referral by an ICC state party, following Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The ICC prosecutor’s investigation opened on 22 May 2007.
In February 2014, The ICC prosecutor opened a new preliminary examination into the situation in CAR since September 2012, stating that the crimes allegedly being committed were unrelated to the crimes already under investigation following the December 2004 referral by CAR authorities. Following this preliminary examination and a referral from CAR transitional government on 30 May 2014, the ICC prosecutor decided to open a second investigation in the country regarding crimes committed since 2012.
Former DRC vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo is currently facing trial at the ICC for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed by troops under his control in the CAR. The crimes are alleged to have been committed in 2002/03 after Bemba’s mitilia group, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, had been invited by the then CAR president, Ange-Félix Patassé, to help put down a coup attempt.
The Bemba trial opened on 22 November 2010. In November 2013, the defense concluded the presentation of its case and closing oral arguments in the case took place on 12 and 13 November 2014. A judgment is pending.
New case against 5 suspected of forging evidence and bribing witnesses in Bemba trial.
In November 2013, authorities in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the DRC arrested Aimé Kilolo-Musamba, Bemba’s lead defense counsel; Jean-Jaques Mangenda Kabongo, also part of Bemba’s defense team; Fidèle Babala Wandu, a member of the DRC parliament and deputy secretary general of Bemba’s Movement for the Liberation of Congo; and Narcisse Arido, a defense witness in the Bemba case. They are suspected of presenting false or forged evidence and bribed witnesses in the Bemba trial. Bemba has also been charged with the same crimes.
Pre-Trial Chamber II has set a calendar for expeditious proceedings leading to the confirmation of charges decision (on whether or not to send the case to trial), that will be rendered in writing. Both the prosecution and defense have filed written confirmation of charges submissions.
On 11 July 2014 the Appeals Chamber dismissed, by majority, the appeals of Aimé Kilolo Musamba, Fidèle Babala Wandu and Jean-Jacques Mangenda Kabongo against the decisions of Pre-Trial Chamber II of 14 and 17 March 2014 rejecting their requests for interim release.
On 11 November 2014, Pre-Trial Chamber II partially confirmed the charges of offences against the administration of justice for all five defendants and the trial opened on 29 September 2015. Bemba and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial is expected to take several months.
For more information:
• Visit our Bemba trial webpage
• Sign up for our email updates and trial summaries (and follow us on Twitter and Facebook).
• Archive of trial summaries
Opening of the investigation
On 7 January 2005, the prosecutor received a letter from the CAR government referring the “situation of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court committed anywhere on the territory of the Central African Republic since 1 July 2002….” The prosecutor subsequently announced that he was carrying out a preliminary examination in order to determine whether to initiate an investigation.
In a decision of 11 April 2006, the CAR Cour de Cassation (the country’s highest criminal court) partly rejected an appeal against a decision of the Bangui Court of Appeal of 16 December 2004, which held that only the ICC was able to try the most serious crimes committed in the CAR since 1 July 2002. The Cour de Cassation held that the CAR justice system was unable to carry out effective investigations and prosecutions. The ICC Office of the Prosecutor had previously stated that it was waiting for the decision of the Cour de Cassation to decide whether to open an investigation in CAR, on the basis of the complementarity principle contained in the Rome Statute.
On 22 May 2007, the prosecutor announced the opening of the investigation into grave crimes allegedly committed in the CAR, with the peak of violence occurring in 2002 and 2003. The prosecutor’s announcement highlighted in particular sexual violence, referring to hundreds of victims telling of rapes and other abuses committed “with particular cruelty.” The prosecutor also explained that this was the first time he was “opening an investigation in which allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings.”
Concern for civilians following Seleka coup in 2013
In March 2013, an alliance of rebels, known as Seleka, staged coup in the CAR, ousting President François Bozizé. The ICC prosecutor, the UN Security Council, the European Union and Coalition members have repeatedly expressed concern at violence being committed against civilians amid widespread lawlessness that has followed the coup. The prosecutor has also stated that she will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute all those alleged to have committed grave crimes and opened in February 2014 a new preliminary examination into the situation in CAR since September 2012. Following this preliminary examination and a referral from CAR transitional government on 30 May 2014, the ICC prosecutor decided to open a second investigation in the country
Meanwhile, the Trust Fund for Victims also announced the suspension of its activities in the country until further notice. The Fund had been set to launch victims’ assistance programs for victims who have suffered harm linked to the commission of crimes under the ICC jurisdiction in the country, particularly with victims of sexual and gender based violence.
16 Nov 2011
28 Sept 2011
19 Nov 2010