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ICC to open investigation into war crimes in Central African Republic

International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Friday that her office will open a preliminary investigation [press release] into the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), stating that the increase in violence has created a "new situation" than that referred to her office in 2004, necessitating a new and separate investigation. Bensouda stated that the situation has been rapidly deteriorating and groups have not responded to calls to cease the violence. The Office of the Prosecutor has received and is in the process of reviewing several claims and allegations of "extreme brutality" committed by various groups and organizations on both sides of the fighting. She warned that such offenses were likely to fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC and that individual perpetrators would be held criminally accountable. According to her statement, the reports being reviewed by her office include hundreds of alleged incidents of killing, rape, torture, sexual enslavement, and the recruitment and use of children in the hostilities. The report also stated that many of the victims had been targeted on religious grounds. The ICC will be working alongside CAR officials to gather and analyze evidence to determine if a fully-fledged investigation is warranted. If so, since the CAR is a state party to the Rome Statute [text], the ICC has jurisdiction over any substantiated claims of war crimes or genocide committed by the country's citizens.

Last month the UN Security Council unanimously adopted [JURIST report] a resolution freezing the assets and restricting the travel of several CAR war crimes suspects and authorizing peacekeeping forces to use all "necessary measures" to abate the cycle of violence. Other UN groups have expressed concern over the violence as well, including the offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who in January both issued statements warning [JURIST report] of escalating violence and calling [JURIST report] for its end. Earlier in January EU foreign ministers announced [JURIST report] they would be committing one thousand troops to the CAR to assist in peacekeeping efforts, and about a half a billion dollars in humanitarian aids to the victims. Also last month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced [JURIST report] its findings that a large quantity of human rights violations occurred in the CAR during December 2013. The UN Security Council authorized [JURIST report] the use of peacekeeping forces in the CAR on December 5.

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