ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced on Tuesday 22 May the decision to open an investigation into crimes under international law allegedly committed in the Central African Republic. The decision has been taken following the referral of the situation by the Government of the Central African Republic and the subsequent confirmation by the highest judicial body of the country that the national justice system was unable to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes.

Statement by Alison Smith, Coordinator of the NPWJ’s International Criminal Justice Program:

“No Peace Without Justice welcomes ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s decision to open investigations and the stated focus on sexual offences, since according to the detailed information that has been gathered, these crimes appear to be a prominent feature of the conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) and cannot be ignored under international law. Nevertheless, NPWJ looks forward to any charges reflecting the totality of the crimes committed in CAR, as charges brought before the ICC should be representative of the suffering of the population.

We also urge the Prosecutor to continue to monitor the current situation in the Central African Republic and to maintain the policy focus on “those who bear the greatest responsibility” for the totality of crimes allegedly committed, irrespective of who they are or the side to which they may belong, before selecting the most representative crimes to prosecute. Justice should be impartial, not neutral, and prosecuting someone because of their membership in any particular group is as damaging to the credibility of international criminal justice as not prosecuting someone for the same reason. Focusing on those who bear the greatest responsibility for the crimes as a whole will increase the effectiveness of the investigations and prosecutions and will provide justice for more victims than would otherwise be possible.

Finally, NPWJ calls on the ICC to take immediate steps to implement a focused, sustained and widespread outreach program in CAR, in order to facilitate two-way interaction with local populations, to promote understanding and to manage expectations. The ICC has a real opportunity to maximise the impact of its work and make a real connection with victims, by starting outreach when it is most needed, i.e. at the moment when an investigation is opened. The ICC must not squander this opportunity”.

No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) is an international non-profit organisation working for the establishment of an effective international criminal justice system and in support of accountability mechanisms for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, with a view to strengthening democracy and the rule of law worldwide. Much of its work is conducted in the field, gathering evidence, providing technical support, seconding experts and conducting extensive outreach campaigns, including in Kosovo, in East Timor and in Sierra Leone.

For further information, contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32-486-986 235.