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Paving the way for transitional justice in the CAR

After years of unrelenting conflict in the Central African Republic, justice and the rule of law are major concerns of the Central African people as well as the international community. Conflict often leaves countless victims of violence in its wake – violence from armed conflict, conflict-related sexual violence, gender-based violence – and human rights violations arising from a breakdown in the rule of law. For sustainable peace, victims must receive redress, such as through transitional justice.

In a joint communiqué on the December 2020 elections in the CAR, the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), European Union and United Nations underlined that the perpetrators and sponsors of violence will have to answer for their criminal acts before national and international courts. They also encouraged the national authorities to pursue efforts to make the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission operational. The Head of State, President Faustin Touadera, in his official speech following the announcement of his re-election by the Constitutional Court on 18 January 2021, reiterated his willingness to strengthen the rule of law and promote justice as the best means towards national reconciliation.

It is in this context that the Central African Minister for Humanitarian Action and National Reconciliation, Virginie Baikou, granted us an interview to talk to us about efforts to promote transitional justice.

What is the status of the implementation of transitional justice in the CAR?

There are two mechanisms for transitional justice in the Central African Republic: The Central African Special Criminal Court and the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (CVJRR). The Court is already operational and the 11 commissioners who will preside over the CVJRR have been nominated and are preparing to get to work.

What challenges are you facing in the implementation of transitional justice?

Whenever there are conflicts, people often wonder why judicial bodies do not intervene. Transitional justice is a means of addressing human rights violations in conflict and post-conflict settings.

 The process was started four years ago but insecurity has been a major stumbling block to making transitional justice operational. The fragile security situation affects the functioning of institutions while also heightening the need to improve transitional justice – where there are armed groups, there is insecurity and an increase in the number of victims of violence looking for protection and justice. Financial challenges have also slowed down the process.  

How can partners support this process to make CVJRR operational and bring justice to Central Africans?

 The State is weak due to instability and has consequently not been able to mobilize sufficient resources to realize all its programs. In addition to government funds, we still count on the financial and technical support of our partners, such as MINUSCA, the African Union and the European Union – to promote victims’ rights and end impunity.

What can Central African women who are the main victims of conflict in this country, expect regarding transitional justice?

 The CVJRR will pay particular attention to women as they are disproportionately affected by conflict and violence. I know a woman whose two teenage boys were killed in 2013. There are many others with similar experiences who need the commission to get to the truth of how such crimes were committed, so that justice can be served. As witnessed in Rwanda, when the truth is revealed and perpetrators are held to account for their actions, that opens the door to reconciliation. Ultimately, our goal is national reconciliation and lasting peace.