CAR

Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with Independent Expert on the situation in the Central African Republic

Human Rights Council
NIGHT
21 March 2016

The Human Rights Council this evening held an interactive dialogue with Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

In her presentation, Ms. Keita Bocoum congratulated the Central African Republic for the peaceful and democratic elections that had taken place in February 2016. She highlighted the challenges that remained before the new Government, which included the persistence of violence in some areas, the alarmingly high level of violence against women, deplorable conditions in prisons, and the independence of the judiciary. She stressed the importance of the immediate implementation of a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reinsertion Programme as well as Security Sector Reform, both of which were crucial for the transition. Ms. Bocoum appealed to the entire international community to take action to support the efforts of the Government in this respect.

The Central African Republic, speaking as the concerned country, appealed for international support in order to achieve peace in the country. Thanks to international efforts, the Central African Republic had engaged in reconstruction, reconciliation and accountability. A Special Criminal Tribunal had been set up to ensure accountability and would be operational in a few days. The restoration of the State was a priority, and would be tackled through the elaboration of a “Marshall Plan”. The Central African Republic thanked all partners for their support, which had helped the country go through very difficult times.

During the interactive dialogue, speakers welcomed the peaceful holding of the recent elections, and underlined the need to immediately implement a disarmament programme, to accelerate reforms of the security sector, and to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Other speakers reiterated the Independent Expert’s appeal to the international community to provide all necessary assistance for the consolidation of peace and democracy in the Central African Republic, and to assist its efforts for the demobilization and reinsertion of armed groups. Speakers were gravely concerned about sexual violence committed by United Nations peacekeepers and called on the urgent need to prosecute those responsible for sexual violence.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic were European Union, South Africa on behalf of the African Group, New Zealand, Portugal, Norway, Libya, France, United states, Belgium, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Algeria, China, Spain, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, and Mozambique.

The Council will next meet on Tuesday, 22 March, at 9 a.m., when it will continue the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. This will be followed by an interactive dialogue on Burundi.

Presentation

MARIE-THERESE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said the Central African Republic had elected a new President in February 2016. The elections had taken place in a peaceful and democratic atmosphere, with a few non-violent isolated incidents, and Ms. Keita Bocoum congratulated the country for this. The challenges before the new Government were numerous. Following the tragic events of September and October 2015, which had led to 70 deaths and 400 injured, the security in Bangui was now improving. However the situation remained precarious and pockets of violence persisted. On 3 and 4 March, six civilians had been killed near the internally displaced camp in Bambari by factions of the Ex-Selekas/UPC armed group. Acts of violence, murders and kidnappings by factions of the LRA seemed to be on the rise. Measures had been undertaken by the Government and the international community to promote the dialogue between agricultural workers and the Peuhls community in order to avoid conflict. The immediate implementation of a Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reinsertion Programme, as well as Security Sector Reform, were crucial for the transition and for tackling greater economic challenges. Ms. Keita Bocoum appealed to the entire international community to take action to support the efforts of the Government in this respect.

The number of victims of sexual violence was alarming. Between January and October 2015, 60,000 women had been reported as being affected by violence. In particular, the Independent Expert was concerned about the rise of violence against women who were believed to be involved in witchcraft and sorcery, as well as the arrest and detention of such women. The independence of the judiciary remained a concern, as did ensuring that perpetrators were sanctioned. In addition, although some prisons had been refurbished, conditions in the Bimbo prison, where sexual abuse against detained women had been reported, continued to be of concern. No progress had been noted regarding the establishment of an effective Special Criminal Tribunal. The Central African people needed to know that crimes would not go unpunished. The initiatives of peace, dialogue and reconciliation had brought fruit, and the visit of the Pope had had a catalysing role. Ms. Keita Bocoum reiterated the importance of taking strong measures to continue to promote inclusion and social cohesion as the basis of development and the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The right of education and vocational education training were of essence and represented a challenge for future governments. Since January 2016 a gradual increase of return of internally displaced persons to their homes had been noted, however, the poverty level was without precedent and left 2.5 million persons living with food insecurity. Ms. Keita Bocoum reiterated her appeal to the international community, including the private sector, to support the new Government in its programmes, in particular the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reinsertion Programme and the fight against impunity.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Central African Republic, speaking as the concerned country, appealed for international support for achieving peace in the Central African Republic. Thanks to efforts by all, the country had engaged in reconstruction, reconciliation and accountability. A Special Criminal Tribunal had been set up to ensure this accountability and would be operational in a few days. The restoration of the State was a priority, and would be tackled through the elaboration of a “Marshall Plan”. The Central African Republic thanked all partners for their support, which helped the country going through very difficult times.

Interactive Dialogue

European Union underlined the need to immediately implement a disarmament programme, to accelerate reforms of the security sector, and to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. South Africa, speaking on behalf of the African Group, called upon the international community to provide all necessary assistance for the consolidation of peace and democracy in the Central African Republic, and to assist its efforts for demobilization and reinsertion of armed groups. New Zealand said that the elections were a milestone, and stressed that progress in security sector reforms, disarmament, demobilization, as well as national reconciliation were priority issues. New Zealand was gravely concerned about sexual violence by United Nations peacekeepers. Portugal welcomed the peaceful holding of the recent elections, and urged the new Government to swiftly adopt measures for the rule of law, security sector reforms, accountability, and access to education and health. Portugal underlined the urgent need to prosecute those responsible for sexual violence. Norway noted positive developments, but remained deeply concerned about violence and abuse against women and girls, including by personnel of international operations led by the African Union, France and the United Nations.

Libya praised the progress made in the Central African Republic in the field of human rights, especially in national reconciliation. However, impunity for the committed crimes remained an issue. France noted that the security situation in the Central African Republic had notably improved, but vigilance had to be maintained due to the presence of armed groups. It asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on the next steps for the effective setting up of the Special Criminal Tribunal. United States asked the Independent Expert about the most important action that the newly elected Government of the Central African Republic could take to bring about peace, justice and stability, and how her office intended to engage with the new Government once it was in place. Belgium asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on the role that women could play in the process of peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic, and on how female leadership could be strengthened in that respect. United Kingdom deplored the continuation of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, banditry, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers. It asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on United Nations plans to assist the Central African Republic during 2016. Luxembourg said that security challenges in the Central African Republic remained, noting that all the parties had to step up efforts to demobilize child soldiers. The fight against impunity was key to the achievement of national reconciliation.

Algeria noted efforts and progress towards peace in the Central African Republic. It expressed support to the mandate of the Independent Expert, and called on the international community to support the new Government for the consolidation of peace. China welcomed the Central African Government’s efforts to re-establish stability and to promote reconciliation, accountability and human rights. China would continue to bring help and support to the Central African Republic. Spain said reforming the security sector was a priority, along with the reinsertion of children enrolled by armed groups. Spain also deplored sexual violence by peacekeepers, and insisted that these cases had to be investigated and prosecuted, and that perpetrators be brought to justice. Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the positive evolution in the Central African Republic, including initiatives for peace, reconstruction and reconciliation, and reiterated the importance to fight impunity, ensure disarmament and reintegration, and strengthen access to education and health.

Egypt commended the Central African Republic for the recent elections, and noted that true reconciliation was taking root. Violence against women remained and had to be addressed. Pockets of poverty had been observed, and international aid, including food aid, had to be provided. Sudan highlighted the improvement of the situation on the ground, supported efforts for peace and reconciliation, and noted that the coordinated and integrated approach between the United Nations and regional and national mechanisms had played an important role in improving the situation on the ground. Senegal praised the progress made by the authorities of the Central African Republic in favour of democracy, the rule of law, and the achievement of national reconciliation, expressing hope that the Government would properly use the Independent Expert’s recommendations to establish the Special Criminal Tribunal. Mozambique stated that although challenges remained, it was encouraged by the progress made on the ground. It commended the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic to allow refugees to take part in the elections, which had demonstrated its commitment to peace and reconciliation.

For use of the information media; not an official record