Central African Republic

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ICC Prosecutor voices concern about ongoing serious crimes in Central African Republic

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7 August 2013 The prosecutor of the world’s first permanent court set up to try those accused of genocide and war crimes today voiced her deep concern about the worsening security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and reports of serious crimes being committed there.

“My office will do its part in investigating and prosecuting those most responsible for the commission of serious crimes, if necessary,” Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), said in a statement.

The CAR – which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting – witnessed a resumption of violence last December when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.

The recent fighting has further eroded even the most basic services in the country and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation that UN humanitarian officials have said affects the entire population of 4.6 million people, half of whom are children.

“My office calls upon the international community to assist the Government of CAR in improving the security situation and in protecting civilians in Bangui and throughout the country,” Ms. Bensouda stated.

She noted that the findings of a recent mission carried out by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) “seem to confirm that crimes that may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court continue to be committed in CAR, including attacks against civilians, murder, rape, and recruitment of child soldiers.”

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic said last week, at the end of his visit to the country, that “there is no police, no justice system and no social services” beyond Bangui. “Security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear,” he added.

Ms. Bensouda said the upcoming meeting of the Security Council, scheduled for 14 August, is an occasion for governments to show support and demonstrate that CAR has not been forgotten by the international community.

Located in The Hague, in the Netherlands, the ICC tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern – namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.

The CAR is one of eight situations currently under investigation by the ICC. The others are the Darfur region of Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Libya, Mali and northern Uganda.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45585&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=

Group of UN experts raise alarm over lawlessness in Central African Republic

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6 August 2013 A group of United Nations independent experts today warned that the rule of law in the Central African Republic (CAR) is almost non-existent as abuses of power and human rights violations have become pervasive in the country.

We are seriously concerned over reported acts of killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, mob justice and the pervasive climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law which have prevailed in the country in the last five months, the human rights experts said, urging authorities to take immediate steps to put an end to all human rights violations and ensure there is no impunity for the perpetrators.

Violence erupted this past December in CAR which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee. At present, CAR is governed by a National Transitional Council headed by Michel Djotodia and a transitional government formed in June.

There have been a number of killings, sometimes in retaliation for incidents of mob justice against members of the Séléka coalition. Some 46 cases are allegedly documented, said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns. I call for a thorough, transparent and independent investigation of all suspected cases of arbitrary executions to identify and bring to justice those responsible.

The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, warned that torture seems to be widespread in the country, and called on authorities to make sure that every allegation of torture or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is investigated by law enforcement officers.

Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, stressed that there have been numerous cases of sexual abuse and rape reported in all of the localities that Séléka combatants have passed through.

The State has a responsibility to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons, Ms. Manjoo said. Women and girls must be provided with access to medical, psychological, social and other assistance as well as to effective mechanisms of justice and to just and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered.

The UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances said it had also received allegations that a number of civilians as well as officers and soldiers of the official army (FACA) had been abducted by armed Séléka groups. On 14 April, a staff sergeant of the amphibious battalion and a first class soldier of the ex-presidential guard were reportedly arrested and brought to an unknown destination.

Any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity and no circumstances whatsoever may be invoked to justify this heinous crime, the Working Group underscored.

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45568&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=

People of strife-torn Central African Republic must not be forgotten, UN official stresses

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1 August 2013 A senior United Nations human rights official today urged the international community not to forget the people of the Central African Republic (CAR), where State institutions remain “close to collapse” and security is “virtually non-existent.”

Violence erupted this past December in CAR – which has been marked by decades of instability and fighting – when the Séléka rebel coalition launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels again seized the capital, Bangui, in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.

“The relatively inclusive transitional government which has been set up remains very weak. While the situation in Bangui has slightly improved, the State simply does not exist outside of the capital and there is no rule of law,” Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović said at the end of a four-day visit to the country.

The recent fighting has further eroded even the most basic services in the country and exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation that UN humanitarian officials have said affects the entire population of 4.6 million people, half of whom are children.

“Beyond Bangui, there is no police, no justice system and no social services. Security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear,” said Mr. Šimonović.

He added that he was particularly alarmed by the high number of Séléka members in the streets who do not receive any salary and set up check points, asking for money or just looting houses.

“The extent of the looting and destruction I witnessed is shocking. When I visited Bambari’s courtroom, I only found an empty room with broken doors, no windows and a thick layer of remnants of archives and registries covering the floor,” he said in a news release.

“State institutions, including justice, in the Central African Republic look today exactly like this courtroom,” said Mr. Šimonović. “How will this country hold fair elections if all its archives and civil registries are being destroyed?”

He said the country has reached an “unprecedented” level of violence and destruction since the Séléka coalition forces from the north launched their offensive last December.

While noting that the total number of victims remains unknown, Mr. Šimonović visited a site of a likely mass grave in Bambari – the third biggest town in the country – that still has to be investigated. Members of the local community said that victims were summarily executed but could not confirm the identity of perpetrators. He also voiced concern about the high rate of sexual violence in CAR.

“The chaotic situation in the country is affecting all aspects of people’s daily lives,” he said. “State schools have remained closed since December 2012 and less than 20 per cent of medical facilities are operational.” Afraid of killings and rapes, many people continue to hide in the bush, living on roots.

“Rapidly spreading malaria and other diseases, high maternal mortality and malnutrition are likely to kill many more than the conflict related violence itself,” Mr. Šimonović warned. “In some areas, less than 20 per cent of the crops have been planted and severe food shortages can be expected for early 2014.”

He said he is extremely concerned by the lack of attention given to the humanitarian and human rights situation in CAR, both by the media and the international community.

“The conflict in the Central African Republic should not remain forgotten for three main reasons: conflict will continue to impose suffering on large numbers of people, it will deepen the religious and ethnic divide, and it may destabilise the wider region,” he warned.

“Restoring security is essential to bring some normalcy back throughout the whole country, avoid further deepening the ethnic and religious divide and facilitate national reconciliation.”

The Assistant Secretary-General added that disarmament, integration and joint training of a limited number of vetted elements of both former security forces and Séléka, excluding perpetrators of human rights violations, is the way forward. However, it does not resolve the problem of the current security vacuum,” he noted.

A key step to restoring security, he said, is to urgently reinforce the regional African troops already on the ground with “a larger and more diversified international force under the logistical umbrella of the United Nations.”

He also stressed the importance of transitional justice and accountability for the rebuilding and stability of the country, stating that perpetrators of human rights violations should not remain unpunished.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45545&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=

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