A small, landlocked nation, the Central African Republic has been blighted by a succession of vicious conflicts since gaining independence from France in 1960. Now, a former military attorney general is fighting for recompenseby Jack Losh / June 8, 2019 / Leave a comment
Among the sprawling shantytowns and crumbling colonial façades of Bangui, armed UN peacekeepers patrol the streets. This is the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), one of the poorest countries in the world. A small, landlocked nation, it has been blighted by a succession of vicious conflicts since gaining independence from France in 1960.
The 13,000 or so peacekeepers—many of whom come from elsewhere in Africa—are tasked with protecting civilians, who have endured anarchy, autocracy and ethnic cleansing in their lifetimes. But there is another man, one from just over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who has an even more demanding job than keeping the peace. In this tinderbox, Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa believes that he can deliver justice.
Muntazini is the chief prosecutor of a unique court, tasked with holding to account those who have committed crimes against humanity in the CAR since 2003, when a coup unleashed a fresh wave of hostilities. The daring project—known as the Special Criminal Court (SCC)—is the first UN-backed tribunal to be set up in a country where hostilities are raging, with war criminals judged by their compatriots. It is an audacious attempt to disprove the old presumption that a society must have order before it can attempt justice.
The hope is that the landmark court can finally bring some accountability to a fractured nation, and perhaps ease the conflict in the process by deterring fighters from carrying out further violations. But the ramifications could be much wider, too. If it succeeds, it could become an international exemplar, changing the way that justice works in war zones around the world.
Global efforts to attach rules and responsibilities to the conduct of war go back a long way. In 1899, the Hague Conventions enshrined a series of pre-existing international treaties and declarations to regulate warfare, while war crimes trials in 1940s Nuremberg and Tokyo blazed a trail for post-conflict tribunals. More recently, in the 1990s and 2000s, the line of tribunals founded to judge war crimes includes the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which eventually put Serb leader Slobodan Miloševic´ in the dock in the Hague, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which addressed the…