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Bringing Justice to the Central African Republic

The Special Criminal Court, a tribunal of local and international judges, sentenced Adoum to life and the others to 20 years after its first-ever trial. (File)

On October 31 a the Special Criminal Court within the CAR justice system issued its first verdict against three members of the rebel group known as 3R.

Bringing Justice to Central African Republic
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Throughout its history, the people of the Central African Republic have been subjected to human rights violations and abuses. Thousands of civilians have been killed, raped, and many more have had their homes burned or looted, according to the rights group Amnesty International. According to monitors, some of these acts by armed groups, CAR’s security forces, and their allies may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Until recently, very few perpetrators had been held to account for these horrific crimes. That changed on October 31 when the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court within the CAR justice system, issued its first verdict against Issa Sallet Adoum, Yaouba Ousmane, and Mahamat Tahir, all members of the rebel group known as 3R. In the judgment, the accused were convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes for violence committed in a massacre of at least 46 civilians in May 2019.

The verdict, which is subject to appeal, comes on the heels of other successes for the Special Criminal Court and Central African authorities, including multiple other arrests and charges. “The achievements of the hybrid court model should signal that atrocities will not be tolerated,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.

In convicting one of these individuals based on his responsibility for rapes committed by his subordinates, the Court concluded that the rapes in this case constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes. This holding brings vital recognition to the women who suffered these horrendous crimes, some of whom were minors at the time, and to survivors of gender-based violence in the conflict more broadly.

“We are proud to stand alongside the Central African authorities and people in their quest for justice,” declared spokesperson Price. “The people of CAR deserve to see the perpetrators of international crimes held to account, and ending impunity is a necessary foundation for peace, prosperity, and rule of law.”

Justice is not only a moral imperative, but it is essential for the maintenance of international peace and security. The United States is a strong supporter of meaningful accountability for those responsible for committing these crimes, and justice for the victims of atrocities. These are core values, best advanced through a shared commitment, and the International Criminal Court is an integral component of that shared commitment to justice.