The Prosecutor has announced today 22 May the opening of an investigation in the Central African Republic (CAR) in accordance with Article 53 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
CAR is a State Party to the ICC. The CAR Government ratified the Rome Statute on 3 October 2001. The ICC has jurisdiction in CAR since the entry into force of the Rome Statute on 1st July 2002.
The CAR Government referred the situation to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on 22 December 2004. The Central African authorities provided information in relation to the allegations of crimes and to proceedings held by the national judiciary. The OTP has also received significant communications from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and international organizations regarding alleged crimes.
Prior to opening the investigation, the OTP conducted a thorough analysis of available information and determined that the jurisdiction, admissibility and interests of justice requirements of the Rome Statute were satisfied.
The investigation of the ICC Prosecutor will focus on the most serious crimes; those were mainly committed during a peak of violence in 2002-03. There are in particular many allegations of rapes and other acts of sexual violence perpetrated against hundreds of reported victims. In parallel, the OTP will continue to monitor closely allegations of crimes committed since the end of 2005.
The Office has analysed allegations of serious crimes perpetrated in CAR, in particular during the armed conflict of 2002-03. Some of the worst allegations relating to killing, looting and rape, occurred during intense fighting in October - November 2002 and in February-March 2003. Attacks against civilians followed a failed coup attempt; there emerged a pattern of massive rapes and other acts of sexual violence perpetrated by armed individuals. Sexual violence appears to have been a central feature of the conflict.
A distinctive feature of the CAR situation is this high reported number of victims of rape - at least 600 victims identified in a very short period of 5 months. The real numbers are likely higher as such acts are customarily underreported.
Credible reports indicate that rape has been committed against civilians,including instances of rape of elderly women, young girls and men. There were often aggravating aspects of cruelty such as rapes committed by multiple perpetrators, in front of third persons, with sometimes relatives forced to participate. The social impact appears devastating, with many victims stigmatized and, reportedly for a number of them, infected with the HIV virus. The Prosecutor determined that, according to all the information available to the OTP, the alleged crimes, notably killings and large-scale sexual crimes, were of sufficient gravity to warrant an investigation.
The crimes appear to have been largely committed in and around the capital city of Bangui, but also occurred in areas considerably beyond the capital.