GENEVA (16 April 2013) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday expressed alarm at continuing reports of widespread human rights violations in the Central African Republic and called for the urgent restoration of the rule of law in the country.
“The situation on the ground is extremely worrying. Over the weekend, more than 20 people are reported to have been killed in Bangui alone, including four people attending a Sunday service in a church that was struck by a shell,” Pillay said.
“Although adverse security conditions are continuing to make it difficult to investigate reports, we know that since the SELEKA coalition forces launched their offensive last December there has been a wide range of alleged grave violations including targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, recruitment of children, rapes, disappearances and kidnappings in Bangui and as well as in other parts of the country,” the High Commissioner said, noting that the local Red Cross have reported at least 119 people killed since the fall of the former government on 24 March.
“We have also received reports of 19 cases of sexual violence against women and girls in the town of Berberati as well as three in Bangui,” she said. “This figure is most likely a serious underestimate of the actual number of victims of sexual violence. Given the state of widespread insecurity, the absence of a reliable and functioning police force and justice system and the fear of harassment and stigma, many victims are believed to be unable or too afraid to report such abuses.”
“Various different groups have also been accused of extortion and of looting of private and public property, including hospitals and health care facilities,” Pillay said. “We are also receiving numerous reports of incidents of vandalism, armed robbery and car-jacking.”
“The extensive looting of humanitarian aid agency offices and warehouses, and the disruption of vital humanitarian aid are totally unacceptable and are having a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians,” the High Commissioner said. “To cite just one of the lethal consequences, as many as three-quarters of women giving birth are believed to be currently not receiving any assistance in a country that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, inevitably resulting in avoidable deaths of both mothers and babies.”
Noting that some 37,000 people have already fled the country to escape the violence, with tens of thousands more displaced internally, the High Commissioner said that “the current state of lawlessness, verging on anarchy, must not be allowed to continue. The rule of law must be restored and perpetrators of abuses held accountable. Those carrying out serious crimes, and especially their leaders, should bear in mind that they may be held individually criminally responsible.”
“I call all on parties involved in the crisis to ensure the effective implementation of the Libreville Peace Agreements and to make a serious joint effort to put an end to the prevailing insecurity and violence plaguing the country.”
“I also urge the newly established National Transitional Council to move quickly to restore the authority of the State and to take all necessary measures to ensure that civilians are protected and can exercise their rights without fear for their physical safety, property and livelihoods,” Pillay said.
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