The Central African government announced on Wednesday that it had requested the International Criminal Court to investigate the most serious crimes committed during more than a year of violent unrest.
“The intervention of the International Criminal Court appears to us indispensible in seeking the prosecution and conviction of those who have carried out the most serious of these crimes, which will not go unpunished,” said Minister of Justice Isabelle Gaudeuille in a statement read of government radio.
The government lodged an official request with the ICC on May 30 “to investigate the situation that has been continuing in CAR since August 1, 2012”.
“CAR is confronted by cycles of violence and reprisals that never seem to stop. Unfortunately, our determination to get on with the task is greatly undermined,” she said, adding that years of unrest and violence had left local courts unable to effectively carry out the investigations.
On February 7, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into abuses committed between March 2013 and January 2014 when the Muslim Seleka rebels had temporarily seized control of the country. An ICC team visited the country in May.
It is also looking into violence committed by the mostly Christian anti-balaka militia that has led reprisals against the Seleka and wider Muslim community.
The ICC has already carried out investigations into previous periods of unrest in CAR, although the current unrest, which has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, is of an unprecedented scale.
A commission of inquiry set up by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in January released its first report on Thursday that said there was proof of crimes against humanity committed by both sides in the conflict.