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UN expert calls on the international community to increase efforts to assist CAR’s transition

BANGUI / GENEVA (26 June 2015) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, called on the international community to redouble its efforts to help the country to fully realize its transition to peace, national reconciliation, reconstruction and the end of impunity.

Following a seven-day visit to the country (16 to 23 June 2015), the human rights expert congratulated the Central Africans for the important steps taken in favor of peace, national reconciliation and to fight against impunity.

“The Central African Republic has demonstrated its commitment in favor of peace, national reconciliation and justice in adopting the Republican Pact at the end of Bangui Forum, which defines a consensual road map for the country,” Ms. Keita Bocoum said, calling on all parties to pursue their efforts to implement the Pact and fulfill people’s expectations.

The Independent Expert noted that an electoral calendar has been set, but warned that “many challenges remain.”

“National authorities, with the support of MINUSCA, launched an important signal regarding the fight against impunity during the arrests of three prominent leaders of rebel groups late 2014 and early 2015,” she said. “However, those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights must be apprehended rapidly for the fight against impunity to be effective and to avoid negative impact on the socio-political climate, as it was the case in the past.”

The expert also emphasized that the provision of identity cards and registration of displaced persons and refugees during the census as well as their participation in the elections will be significant challenges but essential to the legitimacy of the election.

Ms. Keita Bocoum has nevertheless expressed her concern at ongoing acts of violence against civilians perpetrated by armed elements, which continue to threaten civilians despite recent agreements on the cessation of hostilities and a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program.

The Independent Expert, who visited the women’s prison and the central prison Ngaragba in Bangui, noted that conditions of detention have improved overall in those two detention centers since his last visit. “However, too many detainees are held without charge and many others are awaiting trial far beyond the deadline. The prisoners have no access to adequate health care and suffer from lack of activity in prisons.”

The rights expert was alerted of cases of witchcraft involving torture for those accused, often vulnerable women. “During my last visit, I had already warned the authorities about these unacceptable practices, contrary to national and international laws.”

“I urge the authorities to take their responsibility and arrest all those responsible for these crimes and to initiate a national debate on this issue, including on the existing provisions, in order to find solutions respecting the universal standards of human rights,” Ms. Keita Bocoum said.

During her visit, the UN expert travelled within the country, including Bria and Boali, where she met local authorities and representatives of civil society. “The State remains insufficiently represented outside the capital and is not able to impose its authority and ensure people’s security,” she said.

“In Bria, there is still no judicial authority and only one single police commissioner supported by four policemen. This is obviously far from sufficient especially when some armed militias continue to operate,” she warned.

The expert also stressed the importance of taking all necessary measures to protect children against violence and abuse, especially those who are vulnerable, for example in the displacement camp of Mpoko, which the expert visited.

“When violations are reported, the responsible authorities must protect victims from further harm, prosecute the alleged perpetrators and provide reparations,” she said.

The Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic will present a comprehensive report and her recommendations to the Human Rights Council in September.

ENDS

The mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic was established by the Council of Human Rights on 27 September 2013. Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, a former professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire, held various positions both in Côte d’Ivoire and in the UN. She was Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to UNOWA, as well as Director of the Division of Human Rights and the Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Darfur. For additional information, please visit:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/CF/Pages/IECentralAfricanRepublic.aspx

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Central African Republic: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CFIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Julie Tétard (+41 22 928 9301 / jtetard@ohchr.org) or write to ie-car@ohchr.org

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