ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda holding a Press Conference in Bangui (CAR) on 25 February 2015. ©ICC-CPI
Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, at a press conference in the Central African Republic: Our contribution is independent and impartial Justice.
‘Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your interest and for being here. Allow me firstly to brief you on my work and visit to the Central African Republic (“CAR”). I would be pleased to answer your questions following my remarks.
As Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”), my mandate is to independently and impartially investigate and prosecute those most responsible for the world’s gravest crimes – namely, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – where the Court has jurisdiction, and no-one else is doing, or is able to do, justice for the victims.
I seek to establish the truth and to end impunity for mass crimes. By doing so, I hope we can provide some comfort to survivors, restore dignity to lives devastated by atrocity, and honour the memory of those whose lives have been brutally cut short.
My Office has been following, with great concern, the terrible events unfolding in the CAR since 2012. On several occasions, I have publicly expressed this concern and emphasised that I will not hesitate to pursue those found to have committed crimes which fall under the Court’s jurisdiction.
By referring the situation in CAR to the ICC with respect to alleged crimes committed since August 2012, the CAR authorities have demonstrated their commitment to hold those who commit mass crimes accountable, and to do justice for the victims; the men, women and children of the country. They have demonstrated their sagacity in appreciating that durable stability cannot be achieved in the absence of justice. In our work, we have received, and continue to receive, invaluable support from the people of the Central African Republic and their Government.
I just had the honour of meeting with President Catherine Samba-Panza in the capital where we explored how we can further reinforce cooperation to ensure investigations and prosecutions advance as effectively and efficiently as possible.
I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for this crucial support, as well as for the warm welcome and the hospitality shown to me and my delegation during this visit – my first visit to this hospitable country as ICC – Prosecutor.
Earlier today, I also held meetings with the Prime Minister, the President of the National Council for the Transition, and the Ministers of Justice, Defence and Public Security. These meetings allowed for a fruitful and constructive exchange of views, paving the way for further collaboration between my Office and the Government.
Allow me to explain the next steps in the process. Last year, my Office’s independent analysis of the available information led me to conclude that reasonable basis to believe exist that both the Séléka and the anti-Balaka groups have allegedly committed crimes against humanity and war crimes. Therefore on 24 September 2014, I announced the opening of a second investigation into the situation in CAR. This parallel investigation which will look into the conduct of both sides has already commenced and my investigators have been collecting, and are continuing to collect, evidence.
I know there is great interest to know the details and results of our investigations. Our investigative activities are conducted with utmost respect for confidentiality. This is necessary not only to facilitate evidence gathering and preserve the evidence collected, but also to ensure we don’t put at risk those with whom we interact as part of our investigative work.
We are extremely careful and thorough with our investigations in conformity with my Office’s new Strategic Plan. I wish to also underscore here that, without exception, we conduct our investigations with complete independence and impartiality. We are guided by these same principles as we undertake and advance with our investigations with respect to CAR.
Justice cannot be dispensed hastily. We will continue with our rigorous investigations, and at the appropriate time, identify those who our evidence shows are most responsible for the most serious crimes committed in CAR. We are only guided by the law and the evidence. Those individuals ultimately found to be most responsible on the strength of our evidence will be brought to face justice.
I remain extremely concerned about the precarious security situation in the country and reports of serious violence and ongoing crimes committed against civilians. My Office remains seized of the matter, and continues to monitor such reported incidents as part of its ongoing investigations.
I repeat: these crimes must stop. Those who murder, pillage, rape, or commit other heinous crimes must be held accountable for their reprehensible conduct.
To the people of CAR, I make this pledge: my Office will exert all efforts to investigate and prosecute those most responsible for these egregious crimes and bring a measure of justice to the victims. Additionally, we will support judicial mechanisms at the national level, which in a complementary fashion, investigate and prosecute other perpetrators of mass crimes. What is impermissible is an impunity gap in CAR. From what I have observed during the course of this official visit, there is indeed great cause for optimism that the future of CAR will be built firmly upon the pillars of justice, peace and stability. Thank you for your attention.