Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/39/70)
Human Rights Council
10–28 September 2018
Agenda item 10 Technical assistance and capacity-building
Note by the Secretariat
The Secretariat has the honour to transmit to the Human Rights Council the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, prepared pursuant to Council resolution 36/25. The report covers the period from July 2017 to June 2018 and describes the overall evolution of the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and the major developments affecting it.
The period was marked by constant human rights violations and abuses linked to continuing attacks by various armed groups in the south-west of the country in 2017, and in Bangui and the centre of the country in 2018. Most of the abuses were the work of antiBalaka and ex-Séléka armed factions and criminal gangs controlling districts of Bangui or mining areas. They continued to target civilians, humanitarian workers and United Nations peacekeepers, but also homes, public buildings, hospitals and places of worship, worsening the humanitarian situation and restricting access to economic and social rights. These incidents also show contempt for the rules of international humanitarian law on the part of the perpetrators of these attacks, Unacceptable cases of sexual violence and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment still go unprosecuted. Despite the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, serious violations of the rights of children persist.
The African Union launched the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic in July 2017, and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) has strengthened its involvement in the stabilization of the Central African Republic and regional security. Doubts nonetheless remain as to the sincerity of the armed groups regarding their commitments to this process and the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation programmes. The population is demanding greater participation in this process.
Crucial steps have been taken in transitional justice regarding the pillars of justice, the right to truth and guarantees of non-recurrence, but they lack coordination and coherence. The appointment of the members of the National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms certainly represents progress in the construction of an institutional human rights framework, but it requires consolidation through evaluations and an adequate budget.
The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 36/25 of 29 September 2017, in which the Council renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert and requested her to submit a written report to it at its thirty-ninth session.
It covers the period from July 2017 to June 2018, during which the Independent Expert made two visits to the Central African Republic, from 6 to 16 February and 12 to 22 June 2018. She went to Bangui, Bangassou, Bossangoa, Bria and Paoua.
The Independent Expert met with the President, the Prime Minister and several ministers, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Central Africans Abroad, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of the Interior, Public Security and Regional Government, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, and the Minister of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation. She also met with the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairs of commissions, the Special Prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court, representatives of the National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the President and Office of the High Council for Communication.
The Independent Expert also held discussions with the senior management and chiefs of the various civilian, military and police components of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the United Nations agencies, and with representatives of the diplomatic corps, including the African Union, the Group of African Ambassadors, ECCAS, the European Union Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic, the panel of facilitators of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and international humanitarian organizations. She met representatives of civil society, human rights organizations, women’s organizations and the religious council. She also met representatives of the main ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka armed groups.
In April 2018, the Independent Expert visited Gabon to discuss the regional dimension of the human rights situation in the Central African Republic. She held discussions with an adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, Francophonie and Regional Integration of Gabon, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the ECCAS Assistant Secretary-General responsible for the Department of Human Integration, Peace, Security and Stability, and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
In June 2018, she went to New York to consult representatives of the SecretaryGeneral, the Secretariat and the specialized institutions of the United Nations, and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
A high-level interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic was held during the thirty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council, in the presence of representatives of the African Union and ECCAS, members of the panel of facilitators of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation, and a representative of Central African civil society women’s associations. The Independent Expert presented an oral update to the Human Rights Council at its thirty-eighth session and met with representatives of the diplomatic corps and of non-governmental organizations in Geneva.
The Independent Expert thanks the Central African authorities for their cooperation and openness to discussion, the United Nations, MINUSCA, and in particular the staff of the Human Rights Division for their support for her mandate during her visits, and all the people and associations who have shared their assessment of the human rights situation with her.
II. General situation in the country
A. Security situation
The outbreaks of violence and clashes since July 2017 have returned the Central African Republic to serious crisis with dramatic consequences for the civilian population, humanitarian workers and United Nations peacekeepers. The proliferation of areas of tension in the centre of the country, the recent violence in Bangui and the uncertain situation in localities such as Bangassou and Paoua are evidence of a steady undermining of the authority of the State by armed groups, particularly the ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka.
The most serious abuses include the following events. In late July 2017, anti-Balaka elements attacked the compound of the cathedral of Bangassou (south), which shelters displaced persons. In August, clashes between armed groups, including anti-Balaka elements and elements of the Union pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC) in Alindao (southeast), and anti-Balaka elements and elements of the Front Populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) in Bria (centre), affected the protection of civilians. On 23 September, elements of the armed group Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation (3R) used violence against civilians in Bocaranga (north-west). In October, conflict in Pombolo and Kembé (south-east) resulted in the death of several civilians.
On 12 December, UPC and FPRC fighters surrounded the hospital of Ippy (centre) and opened fire on civilian staff and patients, killing 12 men, one woman, three children and a baby.
In late December, violence between the groups Révolution et justice, under the leadership of Armel Ningatoloum Sayo, and the Mouvement national pour la libération de la Centrafrique, under the command of Mahamat Bahar, led to the destabilization of several localities around Paoua (north-west) and the displacement of 60,000 persons.
On 21 March 2018, there were clashes between anti-Balakas and UPC elements in Tagbara (centre). On 3 April, anti-Balakas targeted the MINUSCA base and killed a peacekeeper, while a UPC attack on the displaced persons compound caused 23 deaths, including of three children and four women.
On 8 April, a joint operation by the internal security forces, the Central African armed forces and MINUSCA took place in Bangui to arrest members of criminal gangs from the PK5 neighbourhood. This operation, codenamed “Sukula”, provoked reactions against the MINUSCA forces, causing 31 deaths and 145 wounded, including many civilians.
On 1 May in the PK5 neighbourhood, 22 were killed and another 185 wounded after an armed group led by Nimery Matar Jamous, the “Force”, stirred up violence in response to an attempt by the Central African authorities to arrest one of their members. Houses, hospitals, churches and mosques were targeted in a cowardly manner in Bangui, including the church of Fatima and the Lakouanga mosque.
On 30 May, UPC elements attacked the gendarmerie of Bambari and looted several homes, the cathedral and the court. In the space of one month, the premises of nine humanitarian organizations were looted in Bambari.
Despite this situation reflecting the resistance of the armed groups to turning towards peace, the Independent Expert noted progress in the security sector, in particular the gradual redeployment of the Central African armed forces alongside United Nations peacekeepers in Sibut, Paoua, Obo, Bangassou and, probably, Bouar. She also noted the end of the pilot project on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation, which enrolled 450 persons, but has yet to have any consequences.
The Independent Expert also noted the positive outcome of the vetting process, which enabled the selection, training and deployment of three battalions of the Central African armed forces and the current training of 500 police officers and gendarmes.
Lastly, the Independent Expert noted the redeployment of 16 prefects and their subprefects, but regrets that their efficiency is still hampered by lack of logistical resources, and insecurity.
B. Political context and mediation efforts
On 17 July 2017 in Libreville, the African Union adopted a roadmap for peace and reconciliation: the Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation. In September, a panel of facilitators was appointed to implement it with the aim of ensuring inclusion, reconciliation and national cohesion. The panel, the main responsibility of which is to promote dialogue between the Government and the armed groups, held talks between 27 November and 11 December 2017 and in March 2018 in order to establish a climate of trust, to deliver a message from the President of the African Union to the armed groups and to listen to their political, economic, social and judicial demands.
According to the coordinator of the panel representing the African Union, some armed groups reacted positively to the approaches, altered their discourse and have begun to assist the panel with the process. It was then planned that the Government and the armed groups would begin talks in order to draft a consensus document. The Independent Expert notes, however, that the violence in Bangui in April and May seems to have slowed down the process.
In the framework of the Initiative, civil society players expressed their concern that the people of the country had not been consulted adequately, just as they had not been during the previous two peace initiatives, of the Saint Egidio Community and in Brussels in June 2017. The Independent Expert again regretted the too weak involvement of the population — particularly women — in the peace process (see A/HRC/36/64, para. 34). She called for the inclusion in the consultation process of all players in civil and political life, especially women and local and religious leaders. She stresses the importance of such consultations for legitimizing the outcome of political dialogue. She also invited civil society to maintain its role of impartial and independent observer of the impact of political decisions on human rights.
The Independent Expert has taken note of the local peace initiatives in Bria (centre) and Bouar (west) in support of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation. She encourages assistance to these agreements in the form of adequate resources to maintain or establish an environment conducive to reconciliation and lasting peace.
In the course of her missions, the Independent Expert was made aware of the categorical refusal of the population and the authorities to consider an amnesty for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the peace negotiations, in order to bring an end to the culture of impunity and build the Central African Republic on healthy foundations.
The Independent Expert examined the implementation of the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan adopted by the National Assembly in October 2016. This plan is based on three pillars (political, social and economic) and could make it possible speedily to provide for the needs of the Central African population, especially unemployed youth. The Expert noted the unanimous wish of Central Africans to prioritize the health, education and security sectors, and economic opportunities and employment. She was, however, concerned at the delay in disbursing funds and implementing projects. Noting the link between the National Plan and a transitional justice roadmap, she encouraged the strengthening of good governance to ensure speedy execution of the Plan, where that was possible.
In June 2018, the Independent Expert met with the High Council for Communication during an awareness campaign on messages of hatred, incitement to violence and stigmatization. She recognized that appropriate communication in the context of crisis was essential for reconciling communities and transparently presenting the efforts of the Central African Government and its partners in favour of the population. She nonetheless recalled the fundamental principle of freedom of expression.
C. Regional cooperation to promote human rights
From 24 to 26 April 2018, the Independent Expert visited Gabon to discuss the regional dimension of the crisis in the Central African Republic and its impact on human rights. While appreciating the cooperation between the United Nations and ECCAS on regional peace and security issues, she emphasized the vital role of ECCAS in the dialogue for peace, progress on justice and reconciliation and improving the humanitarian situation in the country. Her visit in June strengthened her opinion and she invited the States of the subregion to strengthen their support for the Central African Republic.
Recommending joint measures on the questions of the transhumance, the Independent Expert took note of the intentions to establish bipartite and tripartite commissions, particularly with Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Chad.
In Libreville, the Independent Expert spoke of the crucial role that ECCAS, with the support of UNOCA, could play in harmonizing strategies to combat the illicit circulation of arms and natural resources, armed groups and mercenaries and in promoting the protection of refugees. She invited these institutions to increase their cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), and to strengthen the sharing of experiences, especially regarding the institutional reform of ECCAS. In particular, she appreciated the opening of the Joint Summit of ECOWAS and ECCAS Heads of State and Government in Lomé on 30 July 2018. Similarly, she continues to encourage South-South bilateral and multilateral cooperation initiatives to assist the Central African Republic and ECCAS in their respective reforms. She also repeats that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its special mechanism can play a role in supporting the Central African Republic. She herself intends to strengthen her cooperation with the Commission.
The Independent Expert was informed of the drafting of a subregional action plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security. At the same time, she noted the importance of considering a subregional action plan on child protection, including with regard to children and armed conflict. In New York, she discussed the benefits of strategies to combine efforts to protect women and children in the subregion. She plans to develop strengthened cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
Regarding security, the Independent Representative welcomed the forthcoming organization of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, during which stability in the Central African Republic and subregional security in Central Africa could be raised.