Central Africa: CAR - Violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Must Be Punished to Prevent Ongoing Violence and Conflict

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A UN human rights expert said today impunity will continue to fuel violence and conflict in the Central African Republic unless perpetrators, co-perpetrators and accomplices of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are arrested, prosecuted and tried.

Yao Agbetse, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the CAR, said the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) had obstructed the country's electoral campaign in December, prevented the deployment of election materials, disrupted the mobilisation of voters to carry out their democratic right, and burned polling stations.

"I deplore the fact that thousands of Central Africans were unable to exercise their right to vote and that many were victims of torture or ill-treatment and death threats for exercising their right to vote in the first round of elections on December 27, 2020," the expert said. "The CPC attacked several localities, including Kaga Bandoro, Bossangoa, Batangafo, Bozoum, Bocaranga, Koui, Carnot, and other locations in the center, west, and east of the country. The capital Bangui was also attacked on January 13."

The Independent Expert said he condemned the loss of life among the civilian population and the UN's MINUSCA peacekeepers, and deplored the many casualties.

"The recruitment and use of children by the CPC is a crime under international law. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee their homes into the bush, while thousands more fled the violence to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. The population lives in fear and dread," he said.

The already fragile humanitarian situation had further deteriorated with more than half of the population in vital need of humanitarian assistance. The premises of some humanitarian organisations have been ransacked with the aim of depriving the population of the humanitarian assistance.

"Basic necessities are becoming scarcer and their prices are soaring in Bangui because of insecurity on the supply routes to the capital, with a considerable impact on the population's livelihood. Schools and training centres are closed in the hinterland and pastoralists and farmers can no longer carry out their activities because of insecurity and fear. Ultimately, food insecurity and extreme poverty are likely to worsen," Agbetse said.

The Independent Expert said that armed groups and their supporters will not escape justice and will be held accountable before Central African and international courts.

"I urge MINUSCA, the Special Criminal Court (SPC) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to promptly investigate serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by the CPC and other armed groups."

The Independent Expert condemned the support of former president François Bozizé to the CPC and deplored the fact that a former head of state incited violence, obstructed the electoral process and endangered the lives of civilians.

"I call on the Security Council, including the CAR Sanctions Committee, which has listed individuals on its sanctions list, including François Bozizé and Nourredine Adam in 2014, Abdoulaye Hissène in 2017, Martin Koumtamadji [aka Abdoulaye Miskine] and Bi Sidi Souleman [aka Sidiki] in 2020, to contribute to the fight against impunity in CAR by drawing the consequences of recent events in which some of these individuals are once again implicated.

"Without a strong message combined with deterrent actions, including coercion where appropriate, the worst could happen: the implosion of the country and massive violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law," the expert said.

He urged the international community, including neighbouring countries, to make every effort to wean the armed groups off any supplies of weapons, logistics or military technical support and called on the CAR Government and the entire political class to prioritise an inclusive political dialogue to promote peace and stability in the country.

The Independent Expert recalls the responsibility of the Central African authorities, with the support of MINUSCA and its partners, to protect its population, including the internally displaced population, while stressing that the defence and security forces must continue to carry out their regalian missions with due respect of human rights and international humanitarian law.

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