Mass killings and other serious human rights violations have been documented in an extensive UN mapping report covering the multiple conflicts in the Central African Republic between 2003 and 2015. Many of the violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, the mapping report states, as it sets out a strategy to fight pervasive impunity in the country.
“We know some people are getting anxious about this report,” said Andrew Gilmour, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, who is currently on an official visit to the Central African Republic. “We are talking of those who committed some of the most appalling violations, who are now aware that their actions were observed and carefully documented. Naturally they are nervous that justice will catch up with them. Justice is the overwhelming demand of the Central African population – and the main motive of this report.”
The mapping report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)* has documented patterns of serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by successive Government forces and various local and foreign armed groups, as well as international and foreign defence forces. The report, mandated by the UN Security Council, documents in detail 620 incidents, including horrific accounts of entire villages being burnt to the ground in reprisal attacks; multiple accounts of gang rapes of women and girls as young as five; extra-judicial killings; deaths following severe torture or ill-treatment in detention centres; serious violence against people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or perceived support for armed groups; the recruitment of thousands of children by armed groups; and attacks on both humanitarian actors and peacekeepers, among other serious violations. Hundreds of thousands of Central Africans have been internally displaced or forced to flee in terrifying circumstances through the bush into neighbouring countries.
“The history of the country has been marked by deep-rooted poverty, ethnic tensions, pervasive political instability, corruption and nepotism that led to a succession of armed conflicts,” the mapping report states. “After gaining independence, the Central African Republic was subjected to a succession of authoritarian regimes that committed, condoned and were unable to prevent serious violations and abuses.” Regional instability and internal conflicts in neighbouring countries have fuelled the volatile conditions in the country, particularly through the flow of arms and rebel groups across its porous borders, the report adds.
“The mapping report on the Central African Republic lays bare the staggering suffering of the people of this mineral-rich country which is among the poorest in the world,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
While the report recognizes the challenging security situation in the Central African Republic, it recommends that some steps be taken immediately to initiate transitional justice processes, including the development of a national approach to human rights vetting of security and defence forces.
“Successive conflicts have spawned multiple peace processes, but as long as impunity reigns, this terrible trajectory – with each armed group committing appalling acts of violence – may continue,” said the UN Special Representative for the Central African Republic and MINUSCA head, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga.
“In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes,” Onanga-Anyanga said. The report sets out recommendations, which include:
· The need to have a sequenced and comprehensive approach to transitional justice, bearing in mind the prevailing security context and non-disarmament;
· The need for a prosecution strategy for the Special Criminal Court for the Central African Republic, given the scale of crimes committed in the conflicts and impossibility of prosecuting all perpetrators;
· The importance of prioritization of areas for the Special Criminal Court’s work to reflect the most serious crimes;
· The need to take into account a gender perspective in all dimensions of the transitional justice process, including in the Special Criminal Court’s prosecution strategy;
· The need to create a truth and reconciliation commission.
“The Government and all domestic actors, with the assistance of the international community, must work together to break the cycle of impunity once and for all,” the report states. The full report, as well as nine fact-sheets summarizing its key contents, can be found on: www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CARProjetMapping2003-2015.aspx.
* MINUSCA is the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.
Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).