CAR

Central African Republic: Government ''surprised'' by accusations of crimes against humanity

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BANGUI, 19 February (IRIN) - The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has expressed "surprise and indignation" that the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) has filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing President Ange-Felix Patasse of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In a communique issued on 14 February, the government said it had learned on 13 February over Radio France Internationale that the FIDH had also filed the complaint against the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) leader, Jean-Pierre Bemba, and alleged Chadian mercenary, Col Abdoulaye Miskine, now in exile in Togo.

After the rebel invasion of the capital on 25 October 2002, the government said, it had invited human rights organisations, including the FIDH, to witness the results of the attempt to overthrow Patasse.

However, the government said that it was with bitterness that it learnt that certain organisations, again including the FIDH - with the help of some local organisations to which it is affiliated - had not only failed to provide evidence of the crimes committed but had filed the complaint.

Patasse requested the support of the MLC rebels from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo to help put down the rebellion by former CAR army chief of staff, Francois Bozize.

The FIDH, in a statement published on Monday, said that as Bozize's forces had been retreating northwards, MLC fighters had raped, pillaged and killed CAR civilians for failing to oppose Bozize's fighters. The FIDH said a mission it sent to the country had interviewed many witnesses, who said Bemba's men had systematically killed, raped, and pillaged. The FIDH said three waves of massacre had been perpetrated 12 km from the capital, Bangui, along the road to Bouali.

In its communique, the government said it was wondering why the FIDH had filed its complaint to coincide with the efforts were being made to bring peace between the CAR and Chad, which have been at bitter odds since Bozize sought refuge in Chad.

Chadian President Idriss Deby made a fence-mending visit to CAR on 15 February. This was preceded by a visit by the French cooperation minister to Bangui, and an extraordinary meeting of the regional Economic and Monetary Community of Central African states on the situation in CAR.

[ENDS]

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