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The Central African Republic's transitional parliament should adopt a draft law establishing a Special Criminal Court, 19 Central African and International groups said today. Such a court would speed up justice for victims of atrocities in the country.
The country's National Transition Council is set to discuss a draft law in the next few days that was prepared by the government and negotiated with the United Nations. The law calls for establishing a Special Criminal Court - a mixed jurisdiction consisting of Central African judges and prosecutors and an international contingent of judges and prosecutors - with a mandate to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes in the Central African Republic since January 1, 2012, when the country's current armed conflict began.
"The National Transition Council's adoption of the draft law establishing a Special Criminal Court would be a landmark step in the fight against impunity in the Central African Republic," the organizations said. "Impunity has contributed to the conflicts that ravage the country for the last 20 years."
The proposed special jurisdiction would consist of 27 judges, 14 national and 13 international, integrated into the Central African Republic's judicial system for a renewable period of five years. The Council of Ministers adopted the draft law on February 5, 2015, following preliminary work by a drafting committee with national and international members and completed by the justice minister in consultation with the United Nations mission in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA.
The draft law foresees the presence of international judges and experts to bring the necessary expertise to a complex legal field and to assist national judges in difficult and dangerous investigations. A Central African judge would preside over the court, and the special prosecutor would be an international prosecutor. All of the court's chambers would also include international members, in some cases in the majority and in others in the minority.
The organizations said that, "The proposed draft law on the Special Criminal Court constitutes a balanced and innovative initiative to support the Central African judicial system, which is ravaged by the conflict triggered in 2012 by the armed groups in the northern part of the country. The Special Criminal Court will strengthen the national judiciary's capacity to investigate and prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in efficient, independent and fair trials."
The draft law on the Special Criminal Court follows the creation, in April 2014, of a Special Investigation Cell mandated to investigate serious human rights violations. In August, the United Nations and the Central African transition authorities concluded a Memorandum of Understanding on the major principles for establishing a Special Criminal Court that would integrate the Special Cell and be responsible for prosecuting those allegedly responsible for these crimes.
The court's maximum sentence would be life in prison, in compliance with the provisions of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which the Central African Republic acceded in 2002. It would not allow the death penalty, which the country has not applied since 1981.
The Special Criminal Court would complement the work of the ICC. The Central African authorities referred the situation to the ICC on May 30, 2014 and, on September 24, 2014, the ICC prosecutor announced the opening of an investigation in the Central African Republic on crimes under its jurisdiction since September 1, 2012. As the ICC gives priority to prosecuting those bearing the most responsibility for serious international crimes, the Special Criminal Court would be responsible for investigating and prosecuting dozens of other people for serious human rights violations since 2012.
"International organizations and other partner countries of the Central African Republic should ensure that the future Special Criminal Court benefits from the support and necessary funding to allow it to operate efficiently, and to ensure the security of its staff, victims and witnesses, particularly during investigations," the groups said.
The signatory organizations detailed 10 arguments in favor of establishing the Special criminal court in a short advocacy document that will be distributed to members of the National transitional council.
The groups are:
Action des Chretiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture et la Peine de Mort (ACAT/RCA)
Association des Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique (AFJC)
Avocats Sans Frontieres Centrafrique (ASF/RCA)
Bureau Information des Droits de l'Homme (BIDH)
Civisme et Democratie (CIDEM)
Commission Episcopale Justice et Paix (CEJP)
Enfants Sans Frontieres (ESF)
Federation internationale des ligues des droits de l'Homme (FIDH)
Femme Action et Developpement en Centrafrique (FADEC
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Initiative pour le Developpement de Centrafrique (IDC)
Lead Centrafrique (Lead)
Ligue Centrafricaine des Droits de l'Homme (LCDH)
Mouvement des Droits de l'Homme et Action Humanitaire (MDDH)
Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH)
Observatoire pour la Promotion de l'Etat de Droit (OPED)
Observatoire Centrafricain pour les Elections et la Democratie (OCED)
Reseau centrafricain des organisations pour la promotion et la defense des droits de l'Homme (RONGDH)
Reseau national de la Jeunesse pour les Droits de l'Homme (RNJDH)
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.
"This is as close to a recorded confession as you’ll ever see in a case like this," said a former federal prosecutor.
In an audio recording that is reportedly in the possession of federal prosecutors, former President Donald Trump admits he did not declassify secret military documents that he took from the White House after losing reelection and failing to overturn the results.
CNNobtained a transcript of the recording that shows the former president said, "As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't."
According to CNN, Trump was referring to a "classified Pentagon document about attacking Iran." Citing several unnamed sources, the outlet reported that the audio tape "captures the sound of paper rustling, as if Trump was waving the document around, though is not clear if it was the actual Iran document."
"Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this," Trump says in the recording, the transcript shows. "This was done by the military and given to me."
Fresh details on the contents of the recording, the existence of which CNN first reported last week, came hours after news broke that Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury on seven criminal charges stemming from the classified documents case. The federal charges reportedly include willful retention of military secrets and obstruction of justice.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti argued that Trump's comments on the audio tape, as reported by CNN, appear to be damning for the former president, who has repeatedly said he "declassified everything."
"This is as close to a recorded confession as you’ll ever see in a case like this," Mariotti wrote on Twitter.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, added that the transcript is "absolutely devastating."
"Just blows a hole in the defenses Trump had been putting out," Bookbinder tweeted.
\u201cAn apparent tape of Donald Trump, post presidency, saying that he had with him classified documents that he could have declassified as president but didn't is absolutely devastating. Just blows a hole in the defenses Trump had been putting out.\nhttps://t.co/296uLj4JYa\u201d— Noah Bookbinder (@Noah Bookbinder) 1686317432
CNN reported that in the taped meeting, which took place in July 2021 at the former president's New Jersey golf club, Trump was "complaining... about chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley."
The meeting, reportedly attended by Trump aides and two unnamed people working on the autobiography of Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, "occurred shortly after The New Yorker published a story by Susan Glasser detailing how, in the final days of Trump’s presidency, Milley instructed the Joint Chiefs to ensure Trump issued no illegal orders and that he be informed if there was any concern," according to CNN.
"He said that I wanted to attack Iran," Trump says of Milley in the recording. "Isn't that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, this thing just came up. Look. This was him. They presented me this—this is off the record, but—they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me, this was him."
Glasser reported that "Milley had been engaged in an alarmed effort to ensure that Trump did not embark on a military conflict with Iran as part of his quixotic campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election and remain in power."
"The chairman secretly feared that Trump would insist on launching a strike on Iranian interests that could set off a full-blown war," Glasser wrote.
In the audio tape, according to CNN, Trump tells his aides and others at the July 2021 meeting that he has "all sorts of stuff—pages long." The FBI seized nearly 200,000 pages from Trump's Florida residence during an August 2022 raid.
"Wait a minute, let's see here," Trump continues. "I just found, isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know. Except it is like, highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.”
"Instead of trying to divide the country and undercut our legal system, congressional Republicans should respect the outcome of the special counsel's comprehensive investigation."
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin on Thursday warned his Republican colleagues against attempting to delegitimize the special counsel investigation that led to a federal indictment against Donald Trump after many GOP lawmakers did just that, rallying around the former president and echoing his condemnation of the probe as a "witch hunt."
"Instead of trying to divide the country and undercut our legal system, congressional Republicans should respect the outcome of the special counsel's comprehensive investigation and the decisions of the citizens serving on the grand jury," said Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.
"Dangerous rhetoric about a 'two-tiered system of justice'—discriminating against the rich no less—in order to prop up the twice-impeached former president not only undermines the Department of Justice but betrays the essential principle of justice that no one is above the commands of law, not even a former president or a self-proclaimed billionaire."
A number of prominent Republicans, including House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), erupted in response to news of the indictment in the classified documents case, which makes Trump the first ex-president to face federal charges. Trump is widely seen as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Gaetz took to Twitter to decry the indictment as "an attempt to distract the American public" from "millions of dollars in bribes" that the Biden family, including the president himself and his son Hunter, has supposedly taken from "foreign nationals"—a claim that House Republicans have been pursuing for months without anything to show for it.
"This scheme won't succeed," Gaetz wrote late Thursday. "President Donald Trump will be back in the White House and Joe Biden will be Hunter's cellmate."
Jordan, who is currently seeking unredacted documents related to Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation of Trump, said after news of the indictment broke that "it's a sad day for America."
"God bless President Trump," added Jordan, who was recently sued by the Manhattan district attorney for interfering in a separate investigation that produced a 34-count felony indictment against the former president.
Other Republicans, including Trump's 2024 rival Ron DeSantis, offered similarly outraged reactions to the classified documents indictment before even seeing it, alleging "weaponization" of the Justice Department against Trump and claiming the former president is the victim of a "two-tiered system of justice."
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for his part, signaled that the congressional GOP will attempt to retaliate.
"House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable," McCarthy tweeted.
As The New York Timesnoted Thursday, "members of Congress have no power to stop criminal charges, but they can attempt to interfere with prosecutors through their legislative powers, such as issuing subpoenas, demanding witness interviews or documents, restricting Justice Department funding and using the platform of their offices to attempt to publicly influence the case."
Trump is reportedly facing seven total counts in the classified documents case, including willful retention of national defense secrets, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy—charges that could carry years in prison.
The former president said he's been instructed to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday. ABC Newsreported that the federal indictment against Trump "is expected to be a 'speaking indictment' that will lay out chapter and verse the government's case to the public."
While the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination faces various legal issues, it is the first time a former U.S. president has faced federal charges.
Former President Donald Trump said Thursday night that he has been indicted in the special counsel investigation into his handling of classified documents, a development that sources familiar with the matter also confirmed to multiple media outlets.
While the Manhattan district attorney in April charged Trump with 34 felony counts involving alleged multiple hush money payments during the 2016 election cycle, the latest indictment marks the first time an ex-president has faced federal charges. Both CNN and The New York Times reported that he faces seven new criminal counts.
According toABC News, the charges "include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheme to conceal, and false statements and representations."
"Today is a historic day for accountability and upholding the principles upon which our democracy was founded. No one is above the law—not even an ex-president," said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president for Public Citizen, in response to the news. "This fact should unite us, not divide us."
"The Justice Department has found what numerous legal scholars have found: sufficient evidence that Trump committed a federal crime in the handling of classified documents since he left office," added Gilbert. "Even Trump's own attorney general, Bill Barr, told CBS News that 'This would have gone nowhere had the president just returned the documents, but he jerked them around for a year and a half… There is no excuse for what he did here.'"
"What's left is for the courts to decide," she said, "as they would in any criminal case."
Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, announced the indictment in a series of posts on his Truth Social platform. After taking aim at President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020 and is seeking reelection, Trump said that he has been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday afternoon.
The ex-president proclaimed his innocence and declared that "this is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America." He posted a four-minute video about what he called "A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME" and is already fundraising off of the development, urging supporters to "prove that YOU will NEVER surrender our country to the radical Left."
After Trump announced his 2024 campaign in November, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith, a longtime federal prosecutor, as special counsel to oversee probes into the twice-impeached former president's role in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and his handling of classified documents.
Smith's appointment came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida residence, last August. Later that month, the U.S. Department of Justice released a redacted affidavit which explained what prompted the raid, during which agents retrieved several boxes of materials.
Ahead of Trump's announcement Thursday, David Rothkopf argued in a piece for the Daily Beast that "my brothers and sisters in the media and the D.C. commentariat need to stop referring to the former president's theft of classified documents vital to our national security as merely 'the documents case.'"
Based on evidence that has already been made public we know that Trump did not mistakenly shift a classified document or two from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. He was briefed repeatedly on the proper handling of classified materials. He has even acknowledged, on tape, that he understood how such sensitive, easily weaponizable documents should be treated.
But he ignored the law. He ignored the advice he was repeatedly given. And, based on reporting to date, he stole scores of items that were not his, to which he had no right, which could put the lives of Americans and our national interests and those of our allies at risk.
Linking to the article, Noah Bookbinder, head of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, tweeted: "This is important. Donald Trump is likely to be charged soon not for mishandling documents, but for endangering America's national security. How we talk about this matters, and that is a more accurate and appropriate description."