Central African Republic: this arrest warrant against François Bozizé will reveal “certain crimes which took place out of sight”

Central African Republic: this arrest warrant against François Bozizé will reveal “certain crimes which took place out of sight”
Central African Republic: this arrest warrant against François Bozizé will reveal “certain crimes which took place out of sight”

Will former Central African President François Bozizé, who is a refugee in Guinea-Bissau, one day answer for the serious crimes of which he is accused? Tuesday evening, we learned that the Special Criminal Court of Bangui was pursuing him for possible crimes against humanity and had issued an international arrest warrant against him two months ago. But what exactly is he accused of? Maître Bruno Hyacinthe Gbiegba is a lawyer and deputy coordinator of the Network of organizations for the promotion and defense of human rights in the Central African Republic. He is also a member of ACAT-RCA, Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture and the Death Penalty. Online from Bangui, he answers RFI’s questions.

RFI: The judges of the Special Criminal Court issued this arrest warrant as part of an investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed by François Bozizé’s presidential guard in the Bossembélé military prison, in the northwest from Bangui. According to your information, what was happening in this military prison?

Master Bruno Hyacinthe Gbiegba: During this period, human rights activists continued to decry the conditions of detention and certain crimes which took place out of sight. And so, today, with this arrest warrant which has been issued and the testimonies of the victims, this will allow us to have some insight.

The Court’s investigations in this prison cover the period 2009-2013. According to your information, Maître Gbiegba, how many people could have been persecuted in this place for four years?

At Bossembélé, there were rebels who were arrested, there, there were certain politicians, there were common law prisoners, but it is difficult to give you a figure because there are some victims who declared themselves, but others were afraid. And again, some victims have disappeared. But we at least knew that there were serious slip-ups, there were attacks on people’s lives happening there.

Under the regime of François Bozizé, there is an emblematic case: it is that of his minister Charles Massi, who then joined the opposition, who took refuge for a time in Chad, who was handed over to the Central African military by Chadian soldiers – it was in December 2009 – and, since this transfer, he has disappeared. Could he have passed through this sinister military prison at Bossembélé?

There are only rumors about this case. But you know, as a lawyer, I cannot be satisfied with rumors. To this day, I don’t know exactly what happened to this politician.

In any case, his body was never found.

His body was never found, so we never knew what happened, and to this day there is no official statement or evidence, so I can’t comment settle for rumors.

And has François Bozizé spoken on this since the disappearance of Charles Massi?

He never spoke out, which is why I tell you that there was never an official statement on the issue.

But do you seriously think, master, that Guinea-Bissau will agree to extradite François Bozizé?

If the Central African Republic signed a judicial agreement with Guinea-Bissau, I do not see why Guinea-Bissau would not agree to hand over former president François Bozizé.

But was there not, last year, political mediation by Angola so that François Bozizé left Chad for Guinea-Bissau and agreed to no longer speak publicly in exchange for protection in Bissau?

We do not control the political agenda. We take care of the judicial aspect and we fight against impunity. Consequently, we ask that political agreements not be an opportunity to promote criminals.

So the Special Criminal Court of Bangui does not only investigate crimes committed under the regime of François Bozizé, it is also responsible for investigating crimes committed after the fall of François Bozizé, that is to say after March 2013. Is the Court tracking down post-March 2013 criminals with the same determination?

This is what we are deploring. There are cases that continue to be committed. When we returned from [la conférence de] Khartoum after 2019, there were crimes that were committed by certain elements of the 3Rs and there are crimes that were even committed before 2019, so in Alindao, in Mobaye, in Ippy. We have not yet prosecuted these cases. And we have the case of Mr. Hassan Bouba, who was arrested by the Special Criminal Court, but who was forcibly released by the government. He continues to serve in government. So today, it is for this reason that we ask the Special Criminal Court to prosecute all cases, with complete independence and neutrality.

And to your knowledge, are there many arrest warrants that have been issued by the Special Criminal Court and that have still not been executed?

Today there are many international arrest warrants issued by the Special Criminal Court. Most of these warrants have not yet been executed even though the government has the possibility of arresting people, for those who are in Bangui. And during the first mandate of our President of the Republic, he launched this slogan “zero impunity” and therefore we expect us to put into practice this slogan which consists of fighting implacably against impunity.

Read alsoCentral African Republic: the Special Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant against François Bozizé

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