Geneva — "Political tensions, manipulation, fake news and hate speech, including on social networks that carry the seeds of unrest and human rights violations must be banned," the experts said. "We also call on armed groups to refrain from obstructing the holding of elections in the territories they continue to occupy."
Mr. Yao Agbetse, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (CAR), issued the following statement along with Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and Focal Point of the African Commission for Transitional Justice and for Protection of Human Rights in Conflict Situations:
"We are closely following the evolution of the peace process in CAR and implementation of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-RCA) ahead of the presidential and legislative elections of 27 December 2020. We have also followed the efforts of actors for transitional justice conducive to accountability, reparation for victims, reconciliation, and reform of the security sector, the gradual restoration of State authority, and the organization of elections themselves. The work of the transitional justice institutions including the Special Criminal Court need to be carried out with transparency and in full compliance with applicable standards including in investigating all sides to the conflict as a sustainable means for institutionalization rule of law and accountability for the peace and stability of the CAR. In this regard, we commend the role of national actors and the support of sub-regional, regional and international actors.
We wish to pay tribute to the sustained support and the mobilization of sub-regional, regional and international partners who are providing technical, logistical, financial and other support to the Autorité Nationale des Elections (ANE) for the successful holding of these elections, considering the constraints related to COVID-19.
The 27 December elections represent a new step in the consolidation of the basis for the restoration of State authority, the pursuit of reconciliation and the construction of guarantees of non-recurrence. It was imperative that these elections be held within the constitutional timeframe to avoid periods of uncertainty that could likely lead to violence and human rights violations.
Our three mechanisms - the United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, the ACHPR Focal Person for Transitional Justice and Protection of Human Rights in Conflict Situations and ACERWC - support the ongoing electoral process and call for peaceful, free, fair, inclusive and transparent elections. Political tensions, manipulation, fake news and hate speech, including on social networks that carry the seeds of unrest and human rights violations must be banned. The High Council for Communication and other relevant institutions must be provided with the necessary means for monitoring the elections.
To this end, our mechanisms call on all actors to comply with the Constitutional Court's decision n°026/CC/20 of 3 December 2020 on the admissibility of candidacies for the upcoming elections. Compliance with this decision by all actors, including political parties, armed groups, the media and civil society, is a guarantee of inclusive compromise, peace and an essential contribution to the electoral process and the resolute march towards national reconciliation.
We call on armed groups to refrain from obstructing the holding of elections in the territories they continue to occupy. The free movement of candidates, voters, activists, and journalists, and the unimpeded movement of election materials and polling station personnel are essential for the conduct of peaceful elections throughout the country.
Any impediment or attempt to destabilize the process would be contrary to commitments under the 2019 Peace Agreement and would expose them to prosecution in national and international courts. Our mechanisms call on the armed groups to immediately cease abuses against the civilian population including women and children as well as attacks against international forces and humanitarian workers.
We call on the Central African authorities to continue dialogue and consultation before, during and after the elections to seek consensus and build the defences of peace together. Our mechanisms call on the authorities to:
- ensure and preserve the right of all Central Africans to participate freely, through these elections, in the conduct of public affairs in their country;
- protect fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of movement, assembly, association, and expression, as well as equal access to the public media for all candidates running in the elections;
- refrain from excessive and disproportionate use of force against all demonstrations, and generally take necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of candidates and their supporters, voters, the general population, voting materials, polling station personnel, and voting premises;
- refrain from any restrictions on access to Internet networks and social media;
- ban manipulations, hate speech and incitement to violence, including on social networks that carry the seeds of unrest and human rights violations;
- ensure that barrier gestures are duly observed in all polling stations to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and
- give due regard to and uphold all other human rights standards set out in the Statement of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on Elections in Africa during the COVID-19 Pandemic, of July 2020."