Geneva, 20 January 2014
Mr. President, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
The convening of the special session today reflects the imperative urgency of addressing the situation in the Central African Republic. We reiterate our grave concern at the egregious human rights violations and abuses committed by ex-Séléka and anti-Balaka, against Muslim and Christian civilians respectively, and the harm and suffering these have brought to the civilian population in the country for many months. While the ongoing reconciliation initiatives are commendable, violence along religious lines, which has increasingly polarized the communities, continues to affect especially the most vulnerable groups of the population as national authorities are still absent.
Large-scale human rights violations and abuses have been reported. They include summary executions, disappearances, widespread looting, property burning, mutilation of adults and children, attacks on hospitals, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, forcible displacement, and destruction of mosques and churches. Because of the violence, access to education has been hampered as schools have been closed for many months.
We reiterate our serious concern at the high number of the internally displaced persons and refugees. Displaced persons continue to be attacked and are the target of human rights violations and abuses. They have become extremely frustrated at the delays and obstacles to humanitarian responses; some of them have been living in dire conditions in the bush and rural areas. Last week there were approximately 886,000 internally displaced persons in the Central African Republic including 512,000 in Bangui alone. The current lack of birth registration system within the sites where internally displaced persons live will have a serious impact on the future of the children. Given the volatile situation in the Central African Republic in the event of family separation, reunifying children with their families will become a momentous task.
The roots of the recent crises which have shaken this economically marginalised country, where in 2008, 62% of the population lived below the poverty line, are not new. The special procedures mechanisms started examining the human rights situation in the Central African Republic back in 2007 when the then Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons visited the country. At that time he highlighted the lack of capacity of the security forces to protect the population adequately and warned that the humanitarian crisis was particularly affecting the displaced population.
The security vacuum was one of the central tenets of the findings of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions following his visit to the country in 2008 and highlighted follow-up information gathered in 2010. He made clear that security forces were unable to provide adequate protection for civilians particularly outside of the capital. In the absence of genuine state protection, the Special Rapporteur found that, at that time, villagers were increasingly organizing themselves into ad-hoc self-defence groups and that ethnically motivated acts of violence were on the rise. He also affirmed that impunity for killings was pervasive regardless of the perpetrator (security forces, private individuals, rebels) or the context (military operations, routine law enforcement or detention);
In the years prior to the crisis of 2013, the situation in the Central African Republic remained unstable due to outbreaks of conflict and ensuing human rights violations and abuses. Foreign armed groups remained present in certain regions of the country.
In 2013 the special procedures have continued to draw attention to the human rights situation in the Central African Republic through a communication and press releases.
Six years after the latest report of a special procedure mandate on the country, patterns very similar to those identified then have emerged: the rule of law is non-existent and impunity widespread. The role of special procedures mechanisms in early warning cannot be overemphasized.
It is time to act firmly and assertively: atrocities from all sides must stop; the special procedures stand ready to continue cooperating with the interim Government and its successor. In 2013 a standing invitation was issued which is welcome; a variety of recommendations of Special Procedures towards solving the long-standing issues that have pushed the country into its present situation exist. Yet there must be clear will and commitment by all stakeholders, at the national and international levels, to work hard to implement them. As an immediate step, States are urged to mobilize rapidly resources to fund the basic and urgent needs of the population which can no longer be delayed.
The creation of a country mandate by this Council, convening of today’s special session and the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Security Council, are positive steps taken by the international community, in cooperation with the interim Government of the Central African Republic. They indicate the urgent need to put an end to this crisis. We hope that the Independent Expert will be nominated during this session and that the Government will extend him/her all necessary cooperation in the discharge of his/her mandate.
The special procedures remain ready to support the Independent Expert in the implementation of his/her mandate and will continue, in close coordination with him/her, to monitor the human rights situation in the country and take all action to avoid a repetition of past patterns when conflicts ravaging this country have made international headlines, only to be forgotten until a new crisis emerges.
I thank you for your attention.