Central African Republic: the peace process and human rights are indivisible

From 6 to 16 February, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, concluded an official visit to assess the impact of the African Union’s peace initiative on human rights.

“This process should include the prospect of a sincere dialogue between the government, armed groups and civil and political actors, including women, and local and religious leaders, throughout the entire territory,” said the independent expert.

She regrets that some armed groups invited to the negotiating table, including the Revolution and Justice (RJ) group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC), the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC), continue to disrupt peace efforts.

“The recent violence in Paoua and Ippy are unacceptable acts that call into question the commitment of these groups to the peace process. It is essential to end hostilities, protect human rights and prevent conflict.”

Keita Bocoum hailed a number of positive developments, including a pilot project to recruit former fighters into the armed forces; the gradual deployment of national security forces alongside UN peacekeepers from the MINUSCA mission; the establishment of the national commission for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and the ongoing restoration of State authority. While also noting the presence of the prefects and sub-prefects, notably in Paoua, Bossangoa and Bria, she called for their presence to be strengthened.

She also said there was an urgent need to reinstate the criminal justice system to control crime and impose penalties. “Mob justice is in effect replacing State justice in some areas, with people, mainly armed group members, inflicting cruel and inhumane treatment, usually on the vulnerable, elderly and defenceless, on the basis of witchcraft accusations,” said Keita Bocoum.

“I invite the Central African authorities with MINUSCA to do everything possible to end this mob justice, which is seriously affecting social cohesion.”

She added: “I am glad to see encouraging signs of the judicial fight against impunity, which have been heard countrywide, including the resumption of Assize Courts in Bangui and Bouar, the conviction of the former militia leader known as General Andjilo, and the imminent launch of human rights investigations by the new Special Criminal Court.”

Keita Bocoum said these efforts must be complemented by non-judicial mechanisms of truth seeking, such as inter-community dialogue to halt the worsening social divide and to lead to reconciliation.

“I invite the national authorities, civil society and their partners to look into a road map on transitional justice, to consider national consultations and collective reparations, and to ensure the non-repetition of conflicts,” she said

The independent expert also said it was important to engage young people in community projects, restoring the public space and generating economic opportunities. She encouraged the Central African Government to pursue these initiatives through the Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan (RCPCA).

“All Central Africans want to see priority given to health, education, security and economic opportunities,” she added.

“Humanitarian assistance, which must once again be praised, remains insufficient to meet the needs of the 2.2 million people requiring help. There has been a considerable increase in displaced persons since the last attacks, with about 700,000 people now waiting for peace so they can return to their homes.”

During her visit, the expert met the Head of State, members of the government, parliament, the diplomatic corps, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, humanitarian workers, as well as representatives of armed groups, victims and displaced people in Bangui, Paoua, Bossangoa and Bria.

Keita Bocoum will report on her findings to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018, in a session, which will also involve the Central African Government, civil society, the African Union and MINUSCA.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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U.S. Embassy Supports South African Wildlife Crime Investigations through Donation of Forensic Trailer Units

The U.S. Embassy is pleased to announce the donation of three forensic trailers to support provincial law enforcement officials to investigate wildlife crime scenes. The trailers were handed over to representatives of the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal authorities at a ceremony co-hosted with the non-governmental organization TRAFFIC on February 20, 2018, at the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa. The United States and South Africa enjoy a strong partnership in combating wildlife trafficking and countering poaching activity to protect and preserve South Africa’s iconic wildlife species, promote economic development, and confront transnational criminal syndicates. In recent years, the United States Government has provided millions of dollars in assistance to support the development and rollout of new technological tools, training of law enforcement officials, enhanced communication, and vitally needed equipment for rangers and investigators.

The U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, awarded a grant to TRAFFIC for $925,935 (R11 million) entitled “Cutting Wildlife Crime off at the Source.” This grant aims to train law enforcement officials, provide specialty equipment in support of investigations, and develop a mentorship program for environmental management inspectors. TRAFFIC, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Affairs and the U.S. Embassy, determined a need for mobile forensics trailers to be donated to three provinces in support of their wildlife crime investigations. These trailers will carry forensic equipment to crime scenes, ensuring rangers and environmental management inspectors have the tools they need to properly collect evidence – the first step in the successful investigation and prosecution of criminals. The handover ceremony, which was organized by TRAFFIC, included representatives from the Department of Environmental Affairs, each of the three provinces, as well as the suppliers of the trailers and associated equipment.

Speaking at the handover, Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs Alan Tousignant said: “We share mutual goals to preserve the world’s and South Africa’s rich biodiversity, to promote economic development, and to combat the multi-billion dollar illicit wildlife trade within our borders, across our borders, and globally. We do this work not just for ourselves, but for future generations, for our children, and their grandchildren.”

“As you can see by the United States’ continued commitment and support throughout the years, we are your partners in combatting wildlife trafficking and in promoting conservation. I am proud of the great work our South African and American teams continue to do together on these issues,” Tousignant added.

This is a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing support for combatting wildlife trafficking in South Africa.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

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South Africa: Police Committee Calls Attack on Ngcobo Police Station a National Tragedy

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Mr Francois Beukman, is appalled by the barbaric attack on a police station in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape. The Committee considers the killing of the six officers a national tragedy.

The attack and killing of police officers is an attack on the state and no stone must be left unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice. “The Committee extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the killed officers, their colleagues in the South African Police Service (SAPS) and to the community of eNgcobo,” Mr Beukman said.

The Committee has urged the National Commissioner to appoint a senior multi-agency team of investigators headed by a senior General to look into the matter and bring about a speedy prosecution. An intelligence driven investigation will ensure the speedy arrest of these heartless perpetrators.

The community has a critical role to play in bringing the perpetrators to book. “The community must share information with the police to ensure that the investigation is expedited,” Mr Beukman emphasised.

Furthermore, the Committee calls for the urgent implementation of police station safety in line with strong recommendations made by the Committee. Among some of the recommendations made is the installation of CCV cameras in police stations across the country.

The fight against the proliferation of arms must be heightened, as this will remove the tools of crime from these criminals.

The Committee calls on the Ministry of Police together with the Department of Health to move with speed to offer support to the families of the victims of this vicious attack. The Committee will request a briefing from the National Commissioner on this incident when he appears before the Committee next week.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

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Burkina Faso: State Department Designation of Ansarul Islam

The Department of State has designated Ansarul Islam as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. E.O. 13224 imposes strict sanctions on foreign persons determined to have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. This designation seeks to deny Ansarul Islam the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of its property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.

Ansarul Islam is a terrorist group based in Burkina Faso. The group has launched numerous attacks in northern Burkina Faso near the border with Mali, including a December 2016 attack against an army squad that killed a dozen soldiers, one of the deadliest ever attacks against Burkina Faso’s military. Ansarul Islam also carried out a February 2017 strike on two police stations in the country and is believed to be responsible for the March 2017 murder of a school director and another man in Kourfayel, Burkina Faso.

Today’s action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that Ansarul Islam has committed or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of U.S. Department of State.

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