GENEVA (30 May 2015) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Saturday said he has urged several States to intensify their efforts to investigate long-standing allegations that soldiers in their forces sent to keep the peace in the Central African Republic may have committed very serious violations, including killing of civilians, summary executions, abductions and sexual exploitation of local women.
“These allegations were extremely disturbing,” Zeid said. “People in CAR were desperate for protection. The role of international forces in halting the worst of the fighting and sectarian slaughter in CAR has been invaluable, and their presence has unquestionably saved many, many lives. Yet, in some cases the longed-for protectors turned into predators.”
“In the wake of the revelations of alleged serious sexual abuse of children, currently under investigation by the French authorities, my Office has taken a deeper look into these issues and the extent of the follow-up into alleged serious violations by soldiers belonging to several other international contingents operating under the MISCA* umbrella in 2014,” the UN Human Rights Chief said. “Some of these incidents have been at least partly investigated, and some States have apparently sanctioned some of the soldiers involved, but the fact that a number of foreign contingents may have been implicated is in itself a matter of enormous concern.”
Several incidents, including ones involving excessive use of force, enforced disappearances and sexual exploitation and violence, were investigated promptly by UN human rights officers on the ground, and subsequently by the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic, which reported on a range of violations by international forces in December 2014.** These included the disappearance of at least 11 people in Boali, a small town some 80 km north of Bangui. An update on that incident is currently being prepared, after the second of two investigative missions to Boali took place in late March 2015, and this will be published by the UN Human Rights Office next week.
The forces involved in these incidents were not operating under the United Nations flag. Nevertheless, foreign soldiers, including UN peacekeepers, have in the past been implicated in crimes, including sexual exploitation and abuse.
“This is a recurring problem involving foreign soldiers operating on other territories and clearly more needs to be done to stop it,” Zeid said
The High Commissioner said that in addition to requesting concerned States to provide more information about the steps they have taken to investigate the allegations, and prosecute anyone found to have committed crimes, he is sending a team from his Geneva headquarters to the Central African Republic to look into possible further measures to address human rights violations .
“It is important to do a thorough review of what happened in the past, but also to drive home the message that there must be no repetition of these dreadful acts now or in the future,” he said.
The High Commissioner noted that the investigations into the incidents reported by UN human rights staff in 2014 had resulted in some preliminary actions by States including the sanctioning and early repatriation of some senior MISCA commanders.
“But this is not sufficient,” Zeid said. “The punishment must fit the crime, and some other incidents were reported that may not have been fully followed up on by the States concerned, and we need to get to the bottom of what precisely was done by whom and when. There must be accountability for serious crimes, no matter who commits them. And there must be relentless pressure on those who are in a position to provide that accountability, namely the States who provide the troops and who have jurisdiction over them.”
* MISCA is the acronym for the Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine , an African Union peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic, that was deployed in December 2013, in parallel with the French Operation Sangaris, in an attempt to stabilise the country which was in the midst of a murderous civil war and on the verge of total collapse. The deployment of these two forces are credited with halting the worst of the violence between the two warring groups known as anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka, that had already cost thousands of lives and threatened to destroy the entire fabric of the nation. On 15 September 2014, upon completion of MISCA’s mandate, authority was officially transferred from MISCA to a new United Nations force known as MINUSCA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic). The French force known as Sangaris remains independent of MINUSCA.
** See pp. 114-119, paragraphs 540-574, of the final report (S/2014/928) of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic, transmitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on 22 December 2014. The report can be found at http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2014_928.pdf
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