A new Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic (CAR) will have limited scope due to the high cost of investigating widespread human rights abuses, top lawyers said on Tuesday.

The court opened in November  and will decide cases involving violations of human rights or international humanitarian law committed in the country since 2003, including war crimes and genocide.

“Given the huge number of crimes committed in the Central African Republic, it is impossible to treat everything... it is necessary to focus on a small area of intervention,” said Michel Landry Louanga, the court president, in the capital Bangui.

A special prosecutor said the court needed to take monetary resources into account.

The Special Criminal Court consists of 25 judges, 13 from the CAR and 12  from other countries and has a budget of €61m.

“The people targeted will be the top leaders, those who sponsored and ordered the crimes,” said special prosecutor Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa.

But to convict suspects in “hard-to-reach areas” the court may have to try defendants in absentia and only if safe to do so, he added.

One of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, the CAR spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka.

Since then, much of the country has been at the mercy of armed groups that seek to control gold, diamond and oil deposits, posing a formidable obstacle to peace and national reconciliation.