Responding to the opening of the first trial before the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in the Central African Republic (CAR), Abdoulaye Diarra, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher, said:
“The opening of the first trial before the SCC is a long-awaited day and a moment of truth for many people in CAR. For too long, victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been made to wait for justice and reparations. The court must now ensure that Issa Sallet Adoum, Yaouba Ousman and Mahamat Tahir are tried according to fair trial standards.
“We also call on the CAR authorities and MINUSCA to step up their efforts to arrest other individuals wanted for crimes under international law by the SCC. Today’s hearing must be the first in a series of trials by the court. Alleged war criminals in positions of greater authority must also face justice for the atrocities committed in CAR.”
On 19 April 2022, the SCC opened a trial against Issa Sallet Adoum, Yaouba Ousman and Mahamat Tahir over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during attacks in the villages of Koundjili and Lemouna in May 2019, in which dozens of civilians were killed.
The SCC is a UN-backed hybrid court that was established in 2015 and began functioning in 2018. It has a mandate to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law committed in CAR since 2003.
In a December 2021 report, ‘One step forward, two steps back’, Amnesty International detailed how the delays in executing arrest warrants represent one of the biggest obstacles to the implementation of the SCC’s mandate.
In October 2020, the organization also highlighted a lack of transparency at the SCC and concerns surrounding the fair trial rights of suspects.