Central African Republic: UN expert urges all actors to seize historic opportunity

GENEVA / BANGUI (8 February 2017) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita-Bocoum, urges all actors to seize the historic opportunity for justice, development and reconciliation.

At the end of her eighth visit to the Central African Republic, Ms. Keita-Bocoum expressed concern at the deterioration of the security, humanitarian and human rights situation in some prefectures and the lack of concrete progress on the ground, in particular on protection of civilians, the fight against impunity and the disarmament, demobilisation, reinsertion and repatriation process.

The Independent Expert noted that the conflict in the Central African Republic had evolved into a proliferation of local conflicts and armed groups with surprising alliances.

"The conflicts that, beforehand, seemed to oppose the Christian and Muslim communities have transformed into armed oppositions between groups calling themselves nationalists and others considered foreigners, sometimes with ethnic connotations which could become dangerous," she said.

Despite the development of a legislative and institutional framework, the people of the Central African Republic are still awaiting concrete and significant actions on disarmament, reform of the security sector, restoration of state authority, the fight against impunity and national reconciliation.

"It must be said that little progress has been made with regard to the effective restoration of State authority outside Bangui, particularly the security forces and the judiciary and administrative staff in general," she noted. "Armed groups reign supreme over more than 60% of the territory, enjoying total impunity. They play the role of judicial authorities, terrify the population and are often accused of committing abuses against people suspected of witchcraft."

Ms. Keita-Bocoum said she was encouraged by the messages she received relaying the determination of the political authorities to fight against impunity, a determination shared by the people of the Central African Republic and in keeping with the recommendations of the Bangui Forum and the Constitution. These messages strengthen the efforts and investments of the partners, neighbouring countries and friends of the Central African Republic to set up institutions and mechanisms for formal justice and transitional justice; the latter should place a significant emphasis on traditional authorities and women.

The Independent Expert noted the developments in the establishment of the Special Criminal Court, including the process of recruitment of the Prosecutor, magistrates and judicial police officers. She also welcomed the finalisation of the "Mapping" project of MINUSCA, which lists violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed between 2003 and 2015 and which should assist in defining the prosecution strategy and in identifying priority areas for investigation.

In the area of ordinary justice, the Expert welcomed the holding of the second session of criminal hearings before the Assize Court and urged the partners of the Central African Republic to support the national justice system, in particular with regard to the security of the courts, judges, witnesses and victims, as with the Special Criminal Court.

"The Brussels Donor Conference in November 2016 generated very strong expectations from the people for an effective and timely implementation of the National Plan for Recovery and Peacebuilding," said the Expert.

"The donors and the Government must work together to ensure that the country seizes this historic opportunity to recover from several decades of crises and underdevelopment," said Ms. Keita-Bocoum.

During her visit, the Expert met with representatives of the Government, armed groups, the diplomatic corps, civil society, political parties, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations as well as representatives of victims and displaced persons in Bangui, Bambari and Birao.
Ms. Keita-Bocoum will report on her findings to the UN Human Rights Council on 21 March 2017 and present her final report in September 2017.

The mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic was established by the Council of Human Rights on 27 September 2013. Ms. Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, a former professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, held various positions both in Côte d’Ivoire and in the UN. She was Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to UNOWA, as well as Director of the Division of Human Rights and the Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Darfur.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Central African Republic

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