Start of War Crime Trials to Mark “an end to impunity”: Cardinal in CAR

Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga during a press conference in CAR's capital Bangui 5 October 2021. Credit: Archdiocese of Bangui

The Cardinal in the Central African Republic (CAR) has said that trials of individuals accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 2003 by the country’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) is expected to mark an end to impunity.

On April 19, SCC, a United Nations-backed hybrid court that was established in 2015 and began functioning in 2018, opened its first trial against three suspects over war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003. However, the inaugural trial was postponed on its first day after lawyers for defendants boycotted proceedings, Reuters reported

In an interview with Vatican News reported Tuesday, April 26, the Archbishop of Bangui in CAR highlighted the importance of the proceedings intended to prosecute perpetrators of war crimes in the country.

“This trial marks the end of impunity and this trial comes to say to the victims you are not forgotten, humanity has not forgotten you,” Dieudonné Cardinal Nzapalainga said.

Cardinal Nzapalainga added, “The nation is waiting to see how the trial goes in order to do our work of rebuilding a new country.”


The member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) further said, “One of our biggest problems in the Central African Republic is impunity, but no one is above the law.”

“We also need the weak victim to know that the person who has offended them can be arrested and held to account by justice of course,” Cardinal Nzapalainga said.

The Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Bangui noted that “reparation will not restore the person or the property, but at least it will send a strong signal that in society there are limits that must not be crossed, and above all, that crimes must not be committed, so that we can put an end to these deplorable and unjustified situations that our country has experienced.”

According to Reuters, the trial at SCC “is related to the massacre of 46 civilians in the northern villages of Koundjili and Lemouna in May 2019. The killings, prosecutors say were carried out by the 3R rebel group. Three members of the group have been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

“We are in a country where we can say there was a non-state and not long ago, ninety percent of the territory was occupied by rebels,” Cardinal Nzapalainga told Vatican News.

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He continued, “I think it's also important to forgive because whatever we say, we will have to live with each other, even the one you considered as the executioner.” 

“So, forgiveness, yes, people need it, but at this stage we need peace to rebuild our nation,” Cardinal Nzapalainga said.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.