Human Rights context
The United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) is a special political mission (SPM) established on 1 January 2010 replacing the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (BONUCA).
The Human Rights and Justice Section (HRJS) of BINUCA, in accordance with its mandate, support efforts to enhance national human rights capacity and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, justice and accountability. The HRJS consists of an office in the capital Bangui and three regional offices in Bambari, Bouar and Bossangoa. OHCHR is engaged in Central African Republic through its field representation in the UN mission since 2000.
The Central African Republic (CAR) has been shattered by more than 40 years of political instability and several coups d’états. This chronic instability has been compounded by a series of conflicts in the region (DRC, the Sudan, Chad and Uganda). Some progress was made towards ending cycles of internal conflict with the holding of the Inclusive Political Dialogue (IPD) in December 2008, and the creation of a Government of national unity. However, growing banditry and the presence of the armed group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the south-eastern region continued to constitute major human rights and humanitarian challenges. Moreover, ethnic tensions between different communities have emerged and taken political dimensions in the North, the North-West and the North-East of the country.
The Government established several mechanisms for national reconciliation, including a Ministry of Communication, Good citizenship, Dialogue and National Reconciliation; a National Council for Mediation; and a High Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance overseeing the human rights policy of the Government. These initiatives are positive but they still need to be strengthened through enhanced coordination.
The human rights situation is characterized by serious violations including summary executions, enforced disappearances, illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention, and violence against women and girls. The victims of these violations are often women, children, minorities and vulnerable groups. The LRA continues to commit atrocities against civilians in the eastern part of the country, causing massive internal displacement. Abuses committed by police officers, gendarmes or security and defense forces are frequently reported, either in the capital or in the provinces . Despite the Government’s efforts to further develop the human rights agenda, in particular with regard to the behavior of the military, impunity remains a grave concern. The judicial system is plagued by corruption and a lack of independence of judges and magistrates. Prisons are overcrowded, and detention conditions not in line with international standards.
Human rights violations are caused also by traditional beliefs. For example, many persons accused of witchcraft were subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or even killed. Such cases are often attributed to mob violence and traditional justice killings.
Regarding the justice system, it is important to note that CAR judicial system suffers from a lack of basic infrastructures and human resources.
To address the human rights challenges in CAR, BINUCA has oriented its activities around monitoring, technical cooperation and advisory services in the field of the administration of justice, including the penitentiary and child protection activities.
Despite chronic human rights issues and problems in the country, the Government of CAR took important steps in the promotion and protection of human rights in CAR including, CAR’s ratification of ILO Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, in December 2009, consequently paving the way for the protection of indigenous people’s rights in CAR. Furthermore, the Government of CAR signed both the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) and on sale of children, child pornography, prostitution and trafficking (OPSC), in 2010. The Government also created a Committee on promotion and protection of rights of internally displaced persons, and signed the African Union Convention on the protection and assistance to IDPs in Africa. Additionally, the Government, in cooperation with the Great Lakes regional pact (ICGLR), has worked to integrate into domestic law the Regional pact’s Protocol on the prevention and repression of sexual violence against women and children. The GoCAR also started the work leading to the creation of a national human rights commission in CAR.
With regard to the recent presidential and legislative elections in early 2011, from a human rights perspective, these elections were characterized by the arbitrary arrests of some voters, restrictions on the free movement of political leaders as well as the disenfranchisement of groups of populations from voting, including the use of intimidation and influence. Furthermore, across the country, whole sections of the population were not able to vote, notably due to organisational issues.
Achievements in 2010
The HRJS conducted monitoring and capacity building activities. It visited prisons, holding cells, and other detention facilities to assess detention conditions as well as the lawfulness of detention and the effective enjoyment of rights by the persons deprived of liberty. Whenever possible, the HRJS secured the release of persons arbitrarily arrested or detained.
Additionally, the HRJS participated in seminars and consultations on various thematic issues, including on women and children’s rights, sexual and gender-based violence, witchcraft accusations and the protection of civilians.
Technical advice was provided to civil society and governmental entities to strengthen the level of human rights protection and promotion at national and regional levels.
The HRJS actively participated in the activities of the UN Country Team and the Integrated Task Force on CAR. It collaborates with OCHA, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and WFP field offices in CAR. It also maintained close cooperation with the OHCHR’s Central Africa Regional Office (CARO).
Priorities in 2011
The main priorities of the Human Rights and Justice Section for 2011 are:
Fight against Impunity
Rule of Law in Central African Republic is a major thematic priority, especially with regard to capacity-building in view to fight the widespread impunity in CAR. OHCHR will continue to support the efforts of the government for strengthening the rule of law, combating impunity, reforming the penitentiary administration and instilling a culture of human rights in CAR, through a mapping of the Justice sector, through seminars and trainings, as well as collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, the UNDP’s Rule of Law Programme (PRED) and other relevant international partners..
Discrimination is a serious concern with respect to vulnerable groups including women and minorities. The HRJS will focus in particular on combating sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination against indigenous people. Notable activities include human rights and gender sensitization campaigns and trainings, close collaboration with local human rights and women’s associations, as well as active participation in the sub-Cluster on SGBV.
Protection of civilians
The civilian population is deeply affected by widespread violence and insecurity. The HRJS will collaborate with the government and all relevant stakeholders, including humanitarian partners, to increase the humanitarian access to populations in need, seek protection solutions for affected-persons, including refugees, IDPs and vulnerable groups, and overall in enhancing the protection of civilians.