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37th Human Rights Council session, Item 10

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20 March 2018

Statement by Mr. Andrew Gilmour
Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights

21 March 2018
Geneva

Thank you Mr. President,
 Distinguished Delegates, 

Last May, I was in the Central African Republic for the launch of the comprehensive ground-breaking Mapping report on human rights violations from 2003 to 2015. While there, I noted that the first faint hopes for national reconciliation were undermined by rising violence, mainly committed by armed groups. Regrettably, the end of the year in CAR was marked by further increase in confrontations among armed groups, particularly in areas affected by seasonal migration. In addition, hate speech, and public incitement to violence along ethnic and religious lines, continue to exacerbate both the violence and many people's fears. These tensions have led to a grave deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation, especially in the southeast and, more recently, in the northwest of the country.

We strongly condemn the shocking killing on 25 February 2018 of six education workers, in the northwest part of the country, by unknown assailants. 

Forced displacement has sharply risen in the Central African Republic due to the on-going inter-communal violence over the past 12 months. Indeed, we are seeing displacement flows even to previously unaffected parts of the country. According to the latest estimates, the number of Internally Displaced Persons in CAR has reached almost 700,000 individuals, and up to 2.5 million are now in need of humanitarian assistance.  

Mr. President, 

We welcome the progress made by the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation to produce a strategy for restoring stability. The July 2017 roadmap for peace clearly indicates that impunity is unacceptable and moreover does not contribute to finding a durable solution to the crisis. The roadmap further encourages the examination of all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by appropriate mechanisms. Support to the Peace process should focus on advancing local dialogue initiatives in priority regions, with all categories of the population, especially civil society, including women and youth, to help create the best foundation for durable peace. It is crucial that women’s voices are heard more clearly in discussions about the restoration of state authority.

Mr. President,

The ongoing peace dialogue cannot be disjointed from a transitional justice strategy.

We welcome the positive steps in the fight against impunity, through the imminent operationalization of the Special Criminal Court and the holding of trials before national criminal courts. The independence of the judiciary is enshrined in the Constitution and national authorities must not accept interference with judicial processes by armed groups. 

It is time to re-establish and consolidate the rule of law, according to the National Strategy for the Restoration of the State authority and the need to adopt a national judicial reform strategy. Institutional reforms enable post-conflict and transitional governments to prevent the recurrence of future human rights violations.

Mr. President,

Victims are entitled to the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for the serious violations they suffered. They should also receive assistance and protection to ensure their participation in criminal justice or, truth-seeking processes, or reparation programmes. However, given threats against them and their families, the reluctance of many victims to provide evidence is understandable. 

Recent judicial proceedings held in Bangui have revealed the lack of effective victim and witness protection mechanisms. We encourage all international partners and NGOs to continue assisting victims and witnesses in their desire to safely seek truth, remedy and reparations. 

The right to truth amounts to examining the painful past, acknowledging it and understanding it, to allow the wounds to heal. A truth and reconciliation commission will only be successful if based on national ownership. I encourage the national authorities to initiate consultations with its population and Central African refugees on the mandate of such a commission. 

Security is the third condition, alongside political will and interest of victims and witnesses, to ensure a timely establishment of a truth commission. On this issue, I would like to commend all efforts undertaken to reform the security sector and the consensus reached between the national authorities and international partners on the Human rights due diligence policy and vetting principles and modalities. Continued and coordinated efforts are now critical to ensure the development, adoption and implementation of a coherent national legislation and policy on vetting, in compliance with international standards. This should precede the progressive redeployment plan of national security and defence forces throughout the entire territory. 

From a regional security perspective, I would like to join my voice to that of the Independent Expert’s suggestion on the need for a regional dialogue on cross-border economic and regional security issues, such as trafficking. I encourage regional organizations such as the ECCAS and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to promote such consultations. 

Mr. President,

Embedded within the UN mission for Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is represented by more than 80 human rights officers based in 12 field offices throughout the Central African Republic. It remains committed to monitoring and reporting daily human rights violations and abuses related to the conflict that  constitute a threat to the protection of civilians. In addition, over the last year, it provided significant support to national authorities in building a national human rights protection system, through the creation of the National Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Forum and the operationalisation of the Committee on the Prevention of Genocide. Our objectives for 2018 are to ensure their full operationalisation.

The CAR was showing signs of progress, in many ways areas, including in the field of human rights. These encouraging signs are being extinguished by a profoundly worrying upsurge of violence and inter-ethnic hatreds. It is of crucial importance that the international community remain fully committed to the Central African Republic, in order to prevent a situation of renewed and more brutal violations.

Thank you.


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