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A long-awaited trial to prosecute war crimes in the Central African Republic was postponed for the second time in a week, delaying once again the work of a special court created to address the ongoing civil war, Africanews reported Tuesday.
The delayed proceedings by the country’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) were to be the first for the tribunal, which was established in 2015 to prosecute war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in the country over the past two decades.
The case involved three suspects, members of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) armed group, one of the most powerful rebel movements in the country. The defendants are accused of killing 46 civilians in two villages in the country’s northeast in May 2019.
The initial hearings were scheduled for April 19 but the court delayed them after the defendants’ lawyers failed to appear because of disagreements over their pay. The most recent delay came after the defense lawyers and others asked the court to postpone the trial, saying they were not prepared.
The new hearing is scheduled for May 16.
Representatives of the victims criticized the postponements, while SCC prosecutors described them as delaying tactics.
The trial is considered integral to fostering accountability in a country that has been marred by violent conflict for years.
The SCC is considered unique because it was established while a civil war had already been raging in the country for two years – usually such courts are established after a conflict’s conclusion. It is made up of 11 international and 10 domestic judges that work alongside the International Criminal Court.
Its formation demonstrates that a judicial mechanism can be established even in conflict-torn countries.