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Security and Justice

‘A Drop of Water on a Hot Stone’: Justice for Victims in the Central African Republic

A Drop of Water on a Hot Stone explores opportunities to provide meaningful justice for conflict victims in the Central African Republic (CAR).

As in other very fragile contexts, the CAR’s institutional capacity is limited, insecurity is pervasive, communities are divided, and justice mechanisms can jeopardize progress toward stability. As a result, victims are seldom able to access justice through formal means, or even through the political and social mechanisms known collectively as post-conflict ‘transitional justice’.

The report underscores the importance of planning and designing justice processes around the needs of victims. In the CAR, ‘national’ justice processes tend to be accessible only to people in the capital; victims in rural areas cannot meaningfully participate.

While criminal accountability is a primary concern for victims in Bangui, reparations are especially important for those outside of the capital. For many victims, justice claims tend to be about social justice and equality. Women and young people face specific systemic barriers to asserting claims as victims and participating in transitional justice processes.

Yet even in a highly fragile context like the CAR, opportunities exist to provide meaningful justice to victims. The report proposes several practical measures to be adopted by the government, including reduced legal fees for conflict victims, recognition of former child soldiers as victims (rather than perpetrators), the establishment of a reparations programme based on the findings of wide consultations with victims and their associations (rather than on prosecutions and court decisions), efforts to ensure the participation of marginalized groups in the design and implementation of justice processes, development of a victim-oriented outreach strategy for all justice initiatives to manage public expectations from the start, and promotion of interactions that build solidarity among diverse victims’ groups, among others.

Rim El Gantri is a senior expert at ICTJ and currently Head of Program for Libya. Previously, she served as ICTJ’s Head of Program for Nepal and Tunisia. Ms El Gantri is an expert in human rights and transitional justice with extensive experience in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Arnaud Yaliki is Assistant Judge on the CAR’s Constitutional Court and President of the Central African Observatory for Transitional Justice. He is also a lecturer and researcher at the University of Bangui, focusing on international criminal justice, transitional justice, and human rights.

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