Special Criminal Court in CAR: what role should victims play in procedures?
Central African Republic (the)International justiceNews
Brussels, 18 October 2017 – In early October, alongside other civil society actors, both international and from the Central African Republic, ASF took part in a workshop to discuss the Rules of Procedure and Evidence Project for the Special Criminal Court (SCC), organised with assistance from the Joint Project by which MINUSCA and the UNDP support the SCC. This was an opportunity to highlight the importance of respecting the rights of victims in relation to representation, participation, and reparation at every stage of procedures.
The SCC is composed of national and international personnel and is responsible for investigating and judging the most serious crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, that have been committed in the Central African Republic since 2003. It was established following the recommendations of the Bangui Forum of May 2015, which sought to put an end to the waves of violence affecting the country and its population. Following the appointment of its Prosecutor and some of its judges this year, the court’s operations should begin once the Rules of Procedure and Evidence have been adopted.
There are various obstacles to starting investigations and prosecutions, in particular the political situation and security issues in the Central African Republic. Another issue is the question of the court’s legitimacy in the eyes of victims, which is why it is so important that procedures are clear, inclusive, and respectful of victims. Organic Law No. 15.003 of 3 June 2015 defines their involvement in principle; plaintiffs are to be represented by a lawyer who is a member of a special body specific to the Court. Civil society has been particularly keen on the introduction of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence as a means of consolidating the rights of victims/plaintiffs, particularly in relation to issues of representation, participation in procedures, protection, and reparation.
During the discussion workshop, ASF emphasised the necessity for victims to choose their representation, which will require the creation of a pool of lawyers representative of society in the Central African Republic. This goes hand in hand with the need to connect the SCC with the rest of the Central African Republic’s judicial system, which will also have to deal with international crimes, so that it can benefit from the experience and expertise of the SCC and thus strenghten its capacity in relation to investigations and prosecutions. ASF, REDRESS and the FIDH also reiterated the importance of respecting victims’ right to reparation, which requires judges to be able to issue individual and collective reparation orders that conform to international standards and respect the wishes of the victims themselves.
>> Download comments on the Rules of Procedure and Evidence Project here (PDF in French).