International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced May 22 that a war crimes investigation will be opened into hundreds of rapes and other violations in the Central African Republic. The investigation concerns the conflict between the former regime of President Ange-Felix Patasse and rebel forces after a failed coup by current president Francois Bozize in October 2002, but the Court is also monitoring the ongoing war in the country’s north.
In 2004 the CAR authorities, in their own investigation of the violence, named several suspects who did not appear in the ICC documents, including Patasse and Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. Patasse had apparently invited Bemba’s forces to help quash the 2002 coup. Human rights organisations say they committed atrocities and raped numerous women during their operations. Bemba, now a senator in the Democratic Republic of Congo, denied any responsibility for war crimes.
While the ICC is now only investigating crimes in 2002 and 2003, Moreno-Ocampo said he was also monitoring current events. “There are worrying reports of violence and crimes being committed in the northern areas of the country bordering Chad and Sudan,” the prosecutor said. “In the interests of deterring future violence and promoting enduring peace in the region, we have a duty to show that massive crimes cannot be committed with impunity,” he added. This is the fourth official investigation opened by the ICC after Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Darfur. (AFP, May 23)