Chanté Lasco - The Cost of Justice, the Price of Impunity: Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Central African Republic




On June 8, 2018, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court, by majority, reversed the conviction of Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Central African Republic (CAR), including rape. This acquittal dealt a blow not only for the individual victims of widespread sexual and gender-based violence committed by Bemba’s subordinates, but more broadly demonstrated the challenges victims of conflict-related sexual and gender based violence in CAR face in their pursuit of accountability for these crimes on both the international and domestic level. CAR’s Special Criminal Court (SCC) is finally beginning investigations the second half of this year, three years after Organic Law 15/003 was passed by the CAR government to create the domestic court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.  The SCC is part of CAR’s domestic courts but it relies on support from the international community and incorporates international personnel including judges and the Special Prosecutor. The SCC faces myriad obstacles in pursuing justice for victims of sexual violence in CAR’s civil conflicts including ongoing security threats, a history of impunity for sexual violence in the country, a lack of capacity both in terms of material resources and a limited pool of qualified lawyers and judges, and intense stigmatization of sexual victimization that discourages victims from coming forward. The international community must provide robust, long-term support for the SCC, with dedicated resources that address these specific challenges and facilitate access to justice for victims of sexual and gender-based atrocities.


About the Author:

Chanté Lasco coordinates the Gender and International Criminal Law Project, a joint project of American University Washington College of Law’s War Crimes Research Office and Women and the Law Program. In this role, she manages a project funded by the U.S. Department of State that provides tools, training, and technical assistance to bolster the capacity of CAR’s Special Criminal Court and civil society to seek justice for victims of sexual and gender-based violence committed during CAR’s civil conflict.  Previously, she managed a similar project supporting accountability for sexual and gender-based crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. She holds a Juris Doctor in law and a Master of Arts in International Affairs from American University.