2 juin 2017

ACTU : ICC Prosecutor says Central African Republic bloodshed "must stop now"

Catherine MAIA

By the end of May, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for an immediate halt to the renewed sectarian bloodshed in the Central African Republic, warning that war crimes will be punished.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's call comes amid an upsurge of attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers, as well as renewed fighting between factions of the Christian anti-Balaka coalition and the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels.

"Violence and clashes between armed groups in several parts of the Central African Republic (CAR) have increased in the last months," Bensouda said in a statement. "These reported crimes may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and must immediately stop," she said from the ICC's Hague-based headquarters.

Diane Corner, UN Special Representative for the Central African Republic, said fighters used mortars and grenade launchers 10 days previously in an assault in Bangassou near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The southeast town had until then mainly been spared from violence.

The offensive left at least 115 people dead including a Moroccan peacekeeper. Five other peacekeepers - four Cambodians and a Moroccan - died on May 8 when their convoy was ambushed not far from Bangassou, in the deadliest attack so far on the UN mission. Fighting erupted in two other towns - Alindao and Bria - that have left scores dead but those clashes were among factions of the anti-Balaka coalition and ex-Seleka rebels. In Bangassou, the attack blamed on anti-Balaka rebels targeted the UN's MINUSCA base before turning onto Muslims.

Control of resources in the area - which is rich in diamonds, gold, coffee and cattle trading - may have played a role in fighting, Diane Corner said. Hundreds of reinforcements were sent to Bangassou to restore calm, and Corner said the situation remained "extremely fragile."

The United Nations has 10,000 troops and 2,000 people serving in its MINUSCA force in Central African Republic, which descended into bloody sectarian fighting after the 2013 overthrow of leader Francois Bozize.

Bozize, a Christian, was ousted in March 2013 by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, triggering the worst crisis since independence from France in 1960.

The ICC, which was already probing crimes committed by former DRC vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba's forces in the CAR, in 2014 opened a second investigation into an "endless" list of atrocities committed by armed militias since August 2012.

Statement of the Prosecutor of the InternationalCriminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, regarding increased violence in CAR:"crimes must stop!"
23 May 2017

Violence and clashes between armed groups in several parts of the Central African Republic ("CAR") have increased in the last months. I am deeply concerned about this development and the recent attacks reported in Bangassou, Bria and Alindao. The current situation appears extremely precarious with reports of violence and allegations of serious crimes committed against civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. These reported crimes may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court ("ICC"), and must immediately stop.

I urge all individuals and groups in the CAR engaged in violence, including those who appear to be linked to the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka groups, to desist.

My Office is monitoring these developments very closely to assess what further action may be required.

We stand ready to assist the competent Central African authorities who have the primary duty to investigate and prosecute those allegedly responsible for these crimes.

My Office has been investigating crimes committed in the CAR since 1st of August 2012, following a second referral by the national authorities. Our work in the country continues. I will not hesitate to take further action if these recent crimes fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC and will take all necessary measures to bring perpetrators to account, with full respect for the principle of complementarity.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecution of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Office has been conducting investigations in: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur (Sudan), the Central African Republic (two separate investigations), Kenya, Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Georgia. The Office is also conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Iraq/UK, Palestine, Nigeria, Ukraine, Burundi, Gabon and the registered vessels of Comoros, Greece and Cambodia.

Sources : AFP/ICC

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