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Rights Committee: Entrenched impunity and "infernal cycle of violence" at the heart of the dialogue with the Central African Republic

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Entry into the function of the Special Criminal Court is an important step in combating impunity, Experts say

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of the Central African Republic on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, during which accountability for human rights violations and acts of violence against civilians took central stage.

Committee Experts recognized the significant security and other challenges facing the country and welcomed the signing of the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation on 6 February 2019 between the Government and 14 armed groups.

However, although the peace agreement aimed to end the hostilities, acts of violence against civilians and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law continued. The “entrenched impunity” led to an “infernal cycle of violence”, they said and there was “disguised amnesty” against the perpetrators of violence - following the signing of the peace accord several rebel commanders had been appointed to high government posts.

In this context, the entry into function of the Special Criminal Court was an important step in combating impunity, Experts said and stressed the importance of ensuring that all parts of the system – national courts, International Criminal Court and the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission - interacted effectively to address and prevent impunity.

Experts also discussed issues such as torture, conditions of detention and religious freedom, among others.

Léopold Ismael Samba, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, recalled that an armed rebellion, a military coup d’état and a humanitarian catastrophe in March 2013 had unleashed a multidimensional crisis in which the Central African State had almost ceased to function. Reiterating the commitment to combatting impunity and protecting human rights, Mr. Samba stressed that bringing justice for serious crimes was a sine qua non condition to obtaining a lasting peace and reconciliation.

The Special Criminal Court with hybrid jurisdiction to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations that had taken place since 2003 had held its inaugural session in October 2019. In addition, the country was restoring its jurisdiction and redeploying judges and magistrates despite the delicate security context. On 27 February 2020, the National Assembly had adopted the bill establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission.

As for the “disguised amnesty”, the delegation highlighted that the Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation was clear on the issue and did not grant amnesty. The Special Criminal Court, which was fully functional, would continue its independent investigations and “when the time comes, everyone will be held accountable”. The Court’s budget was provided for by international partners, but not all the pledges had been met, which was becoming a problem, noted the delegation.

It was very difficult to intervene in areas controlled by armed groups and prevent acts of violence and human rights violations, a delegate said and stressed the importance of all parties to the peace accord upholding their part of the agreement. And yet, while the State stood by its 21 commitments, the armed groups continued to engage in violent acts.

To put an end to such acts and improve the situation in the Central African Republic, United Nations, European Union and the African Union could implement sanctions, while the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission should live fully by its obligations, the delegation said.

Mr. Samba said in his concluding remarks that the Central African Republic needed help to recover its capacities and hoped that the dialogue had identified what needed to be done to enable it to fully participate in the family of nations.

Ahmed Amin Fathalla, Committee Chairperson, in his conclusion recognized that, without security, some obligations under the Covenant could not be discharged. Nevertheless, a functioning Government and Parliament were in place; they could take action and pass legislation in several areas, such as extending the window for legal abortion, bolstering the independence of the judiciary and strengthening the response to child soldiers.

The delegation of the Central African Republic consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the report of the Central African Republic will be issued at the end of the session on 27 March. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.