Chofor Che: Screening prospects of an envisaged Special Criminal Tribunal for the Central African Republic

In early September 2015 during a programme on Sikka Television, a Gabonese television network, reporters reported that a Special Criminal Tribunal is to be set up in the Central Africa Republic (CAR). This Tribunal is to be set up following a Law in the CAR dated 3 June 2015. The Tribunal is supposed to be a national court which addresses cases of rape, murder and genocide, just to name a few human rights violations. The United Nations (UN) has opted to help to set up this court. Considering the fact that the CAR has been plunged into political strife since March 2013, is this move a good step for the administration of justice, reconciliation and development in the CAR whenever the political strife dies down? How financially independent will this court be? How effective will this court be? What about conflicting jurisdictions with existing courts in the CAR?

There is no gainsaying that setting up this court remains a major challenge. Independence of the courts is very important in the administration of justice. Constitutional law experts continue to argue that the judiciary in Africa is still not adequately independent. There remains a major concern on the selection of judges and court registrars who are going to run this court. This in actual fact remains an aberration to the independence and Impartiality of decisions on the continent and obviously with respect to the envisaged Special Criminal Tribunal for the CAR. Some analysts argue that the Special Criminal Tribunal may be a medium for the impunity of those who opposed undemocratic rule in the CAR. These analysts also argue that because of the inadequate independence and impartiality of judges at the Special Criminal Tribunal, justice will not be adequately given to victims and affected families.

The CAR boasts of several courts and institutions. Some of these courts have already started judging cases of rape and murder as the tension in the country continues. There is a tendency that the creation of the Special Criminal Tribunal will emanate to the duplicity of tasks with respect to judging crimes against humanity. This will indeed lead to a lot of confusion and conflict in the administration of justice.

Some political analysts purported that the old regime was unable to adequately finance investigations carried out by existing courts and institutions, before the conflict in the CAR became acute. They add that because the UN has opted to finance this court, the judgments of this court would definitely be influenced by the UN and not by actual investigative reports on the field. Decisions of this judicial body will thus be wanting.

If the CAR, the UN and the world want just a Special Criminal Tribunal which mirrors domestic courts which are currently mired with inadequate independence and impartiality, then this new judicial institution would just be a way of squandering tax payers’ money, especially from a country which has suffered gross political turmoil and will defeat the purpose of its creation. The Special Criminal Tribunal needs to be adequately independent and impartial.

This judicial institution needs to be financially independent. This does not mean tax payers money should be squandered without justification.

This judicial institution needs to also be able to judge culprits and accused without fear or favour especially those who continue to abuse human rights. To this respect specialised training especially on human rights is necessary for judges, court registrars and investigators.

There is also need to adequately train judges and court registrars as well as forensic experts on investigative norms. Definitely there is need for assistance from the UN in this regard, which will go a long way in the administration of justice in the CAR. This in no way means that the UN should usurp the jurisdiction meant for the administration of the CAR. There should also be collaboration with other institutions of the state for the common good of the people of the CAR.

Chofor Che is an integral part of the Africanliberty’s Voice of Liberty initiative. He has over ten years of experience in the civil service of Cameroon. He is founding President of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action (CACLiTA). He is also an analyst at He blogs at

photo: Chofor Che is a columnist with African Liberty