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article image'No obstacles' in launching C.Africa Special Criminal Court

By AFP     Jun 25, 2018 in World

A court charged with probing atrocities committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) has cleared its final hurdle and is expected to launch investigations later this year, its special prosecutor said Monday.

"There are no more obstacles to prevent the court from starting its judicial activities," said Toussaint Muntazini in the CAR capital Bangui, adding that work should start in the latter half of 2018.

The Special Criminal Court's regulations were adopted by parliament in late May and validated by the Consitutional Court, he added.

It now remains for CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera to sign a formal decree covering the SCC's regulation and organisation and the work of a special police force attached to the court.

Despite the progress, Muntazini cautioned that the court's work was still shadowed by the question of security -- the detention of suspects and their rehabilitation in prison -- and longer-term financial resources. Current funding for the SCC only covers the first year of operations.

One of Africa's poorest countries, the CAR descended into bloodletting in 2013 following the ouster of the majority-Christian country's president, Francois Bozize, by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups called the Seleka.

In response, Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organized vigilante units dubbed "anti-balaka."

France intervened militarily to help force out the Seleka before handing on to a UN peacekeeping mission.

However, the central government remains very weak, and violence has led to thousands of deaths. Nearly 700,000 people are displaced, 570,000 are refugees abroad and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

The SCC was created in 2015 but has been held up by administrative wrangling. Its prosecutor and 25 national and foreign judges were appointed in 2017 and a dozen judicial police officers added in May.

A report published in May last year by the UN's Human Rights Commissioner documented 620 incidents entailing "serious violations" of international human rights laws between 2003 and 2015.

"The vast majority" of these incidents were perpetrated by the security forces or by the Seleka or anti-Seleka militias or their spinoffs, it said.

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