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Statement by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, at the conclusion of her visit to the Central African Republic on Friday, 23 March: collaboration is key to closing the impunity gap

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Photo: ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, closes the training organised for the CAR Special Criminal Court magistrates
Photo: ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, closes the training organised for the CAR Special Criminal Court magistrates

Photo: ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the President of CAR, H.E. Mr Faustin Archange Touadera

I am pleased to have had this opportunity to be back in the Central African Republic ("CAR").

A few days ago, I had the great honour of attending, in the presence of the authorities of the Central African Republic, the opening ceremony of a training programme for the examining magistrates and judges of the Special Criminal Court in your country. This three-day training programme was the result of a fruitful collaboration between the French National School of Administration and the Judiciary, MINUSCA, and the International Criminal Court ("ICC" or the "Court").

The on-going violence currently plaguing a large portion of the country, including the city of Bangui, reminds us just how precarious the situation in CAR remains. Clashes between armed groups persist. The civilian population suffers from this state of instability and violence.

These terrible events are a reminder of the major challenges which must be overcome in order to restore stability in CAR. Justice and accountability are necessary to successfully surmount the recurring cycle of violence. The fight against impunity and efforts to stabilise the country are inextricable.

It is heartening that the men and women of the Central African Republic have called for justice. These demands must be met. We have heard this need expressed by many, including participants in the Bangui Forum of 2015, Government representatives, members of civil society, religious leaders, refugees and members of the diaspora.

As these voices continue to stress, there will be no peace, nor lasting reconciliation, without justice. Each of us has a contribution to make: peace, justice, reconstruction and reconciliation are all different facets of the same struggle. Only by cooperating and coordinating our respective efforts shall we achieve these goals. As Prosecutor of the ICC, I reaffirm that my Office will continue to play its part in accordance with its mandate under the Rome Statute.

At the end of 2014, following a referral by Central African authorities regarding the situation in their country, I decided to open a second investigation. Since then, the representatives of my Office have been collecting, and continue to collect evidence relative to crimes committed since 1 August 2012.

We are focusing our efforts on investigating alleged crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the ICC committed during the period in question by both parties to the conflict, namely, the Séléka and the Anti-Balaka armed groups.

We shall fulfil our role, but we cannot address all atrocity crimes committed in CAR, and were never designed to do so.

That is why my Office has always emphasised the importance of cooperation and complementarity; it is, therefore, crucial to develop strong linkages between national judicial systems and the ICC.

Our efforts are solely undertaken in accordance with our mandate under the Rome Statute, bringing the added value derived from the preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions for which we are responsible. Sharing expertise and experiences, as we have done here for the participants of this training programme, is also another way we can contribute.

We greatly appreciate all efforts undertaken to restore justice in CAR, including the efforts of the Special Criminal Court.

Such initiatives will assist CAR authorities to discharge their primary responsibility; namely, investigating the atrocities committed and prosecuting perpetrators, with a view to ensuring that they are held accountable.

My meetings with national authorities, civil society representatives, judicial actors and the media over the past few days have been fruitful and rewarding. They have underscored the goodwill and commitment that exists in the country to justice and accountability for atrocity crimes.

The efforts undertaken by the ICC, national authorities, the Special Criminal Court and other actors are all complementary. They all seek to ensure those responsible for egregious crimes committed in CAR are held responsible, and by so doing, hope to deter future crimes.

These goals are not the purview of a single institution: this is a shared aspiration that binds us all together. We must all, in our respective roles, address atrocity crimes and aim to bring meaningful justice to the victims.

Allow me to close by expressing my sincere gratitude to the people and the Government of Central African Republic for the warm welcome they have extended to us, and reiterate my Office's commitment to the pursuit of accountability for atrocity crimes in CAR. As we do, we also recognize that collaboration is key to closing the impunity gap.

The ICC's Office of the Prosecutor conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC's jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d'Ivoire; Mali; Georgia and Burundi. Pre-Trial Chamber II is seized of the Prosecutor's request for authorisation to commence an investigation into the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Office is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Colombia; the Gabonese Republic; Guinea; Iraq/UK; Palestine; The Philippines, Nigeria; Venezuela and Ukraine.

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Source : Office of the Prosecutor