HRW wants justice for war crimes in Central Africa
Rebel groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have killed hundreds of civilians with impunity due to lack of justice for crimes committed, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
In its report, the watchdog said more than 560 civilians were killed in only three central provinces, while over 4,000 homes destroyed since late 2014.
"Over the past two years, hundreds of witnesses told us of brazen war crimes committed by Seleka and anti-balaka fighters across the center and eastern part of the Central African Republic," Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at HRW said.
Lack of justice for these crimes has left fighters free to terrorize civilians at will, and fueled ongoing revenge attacks in the country, he added.
HRW said crimes it documented fell under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has the capacity to target those "most responsible" for serious crimes, adding "Scores of other commanders who bear criminal responsibility for atrocities, some of whom Human Rights Watch identified by name, may never face justice".
The group believes the recently established Special Criminal Court (SCC) by the CAR government could help further serve justice to scores of fighters who committed these war crimes.
The SCC, which is in the process of becoming operational, is a unique hybrid court embedded in the national system with national and international judges and prosecutors.
The report, however, said the SCC required sustained financial and political support from government and its international supporters especially the United Nations.
Last month, 100 people were killed in intense fighting in the eastern-central town of Bria, barely a day after the country signed a peace deal with militant groups operating in the country.
The mineral-rich landlocked country descended into anarchy in 2013, when ex-Seleka rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
Micheal Djotidia was then installed, becoming the country's first Muslim president since its independence from France in 1960, but his reign was short-lived after regional leaders forced him to step down.
His exit in 2014 led to increased attacks on Muslims, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring Chad and Cameron.