19 October 2007 The International Criminal Court (ICC) has entered a protocol agreement with the Central African Republic (CAR) setting out the cooperation and protection that the Government will provide to court officials investigating whether war crimes have taken place in the impoverished country since 2002.
Bruno Cathala, the ICC registrar, signed the agreement with the CAR Justice Minister Thierry Maleyombo during a meeting yesterday in the capital, Bangui, according to a press statement released by the Court. Prime Minister Elie Doté was also present.
The agreement covers the conditions of operations for ICC teams – including investigators, security officials and witness protection officials – while they are working in the CAR and coincides with the opening of an ICC field office in Bangui.
Earlier this year the Government referred the issue of possible war crimes to the ICC, saying the national justice system was not capable of carrying out the complex investigations and proceedings necessary to launch prosecutions.
In May ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced his office would investigate, as it believed that “grave crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the Court were committed,” particularly rape, during 2002 and 2003.
When the violence peaked in those two years during an armed conflict between the Government and rebel forces, civilians were killed and raped and homes and stores were looted, the ICC said, citing a preliminary analysis. The conflict was characterized by widespread use of rape, and the investigation marks the first time the Prosecutor is examining a situation where allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings. Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he would also monitor the current situation in the CAR to determine whether more recent events warrant further investigation.