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Central African Republic: Constitution Approved by Transitional Council

(Sept. 11, 2015) It was reported on September 2, 2015, that the National Transitional Council in the Central African Republic, the country’s government, had approved a Constitution for the country. Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza established the current Council with a view to promoting newly organized upcoming legislative and presidential elections; a first round of these elections is set to occur October 18, 2015, and a second round is scheduled for October 22. Prior to the elections, on October 5, a referendum will be held on passage of the Constitution. (Matt Belenky, Central African Repbulic [sic] Transitional Council Adopts Constitution, PAPER CHASE (Sept. 2, 2015).)

The new Constitution requires ministers to give approval to decisions made by the President and Prime Minister; Bruno Gbiegba, vice president of the Council’s legal commission, therefore stated, “[t]he government will also be under obligation to inform parliament each time it signs a contract concerning the country’s mineral resources.” (Central African Republic Council Adopts New Constitution, REUTERS (Aug. 31, 2015).)

Background

The Council comprises a Senate, the National Election Authority, the legal commission, and a good governance body. (Id.) In April 2015, the Council voted in favor of the creation of a special criminal court. (Belenky, supra.) Former CAR President François Bozizé had created the National Transitional Council in 2003, when he assumed power after launching a coup in March of that year. (Central African Republic, FREEDOM HOUSE (2007)[conduct a search using “Central African Republic” click on a “read more” button, and choose ñ??·” from a drop-down window of years].)

When the Séléka rebels, who are mostly Muslim, seized power in the Central African Republic in March 2013, the country plunged into chaos, as their actions triggered reprisals by Christian militias who reportedly “drove tens of thousands of Muslims from the south in a de facto partition.” (Central African Republic Council Adopts New Constitution, supra.) In January 2015, a United Nations investigatory commission reported:

The Commission is satisfied that the investigations it has conducted have established that all the parties [the members of the CAR Armed Forces under Bozizé, who fled the country after the March 2013 coup, and the principal militias, the Séléka and the Anti-Balaka] were involved in serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses of human rights including rape and other gender based sexual offences and violations. (Letter Dated 19 December 2014 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2014/928 (Dec. 22, 2014), at 6, Security Council Report website [report is annexed to the letter].)

The Commission went on to state that many of these abuses amounted to crimes under both domestic law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not reaching the level of genocide. (Id.; Ashley Hogan, UN Report Concludes War Crimes in CAR Not Genocide, PAPER CHASE (Jan. 9, 2015).) Later in January, the Commission urged that an international court be established to investigate and prosecute the crimes’ perpetrators. (Central African Republic: UN Investigators Urge Establishment of War Crimes Tribunal, UN NEWS CENTRE (Jan. 21, 2015).)