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Human Rights Council concludes interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic

Human Rights Council
MORNING

28 September 2017

The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its interactive dialogue with Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. 

In the discussion, several delegations voiced concern about the alarming increase in violence in the Central African Republic, which included targeted attacks against civilians, and humanitarian facilities.  Many attacks appeared to be based on religious or ethnic grounds.  Several speakers welcomed the progress made by the Government towards the establishment of a special criminal court and a national human rights institution.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Keita-Bocoum highlighted that re-establishing security was a first priority for the country in order to put an end to the upsurge of violence by armed groups.  This should be brought hand in hand with reforms in the area of justice.  Ms. Keita-Bocoum said that a partial ceasing of the arms embargo could be requested so as to provide trained soldiers with arms.  She welcomed the adoption of different transitional justice strategies by the Government.  Such strategies should be inclusive in order to pave the way for a lasting reconciliation in the country.

Ms. Keita-Bocoum presented her report on Wednesday, 27 September, and a summary of her comments can be found here.

Speaking this morning were Luxembourg, Ukraine, Belgium, France, Morocco, Angola, United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Gabon and Mozambique.  The International Organization of la Francophonie and the United Nations Children’s Fund also took the floor.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: World Evangelical Alliance in a joint statement, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Defence for Children International and the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Council will next hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Luxembourg voiced concern about the impasse facing the Central African Republic as a result of the deterioration of the security situation.  Luxembourg welcomed the participation of the President of the Central African Republic in the work of the Council.  All the international partners of the Central African Republic must strive to stabilize and develop the authority of the State throughout the country.  Ukraine commended the achievements of the Government of the Central African Republic in strengthening the legal framework, in particular, establishing the national commission on human rights last April.  Ukraine remained worried about the situation of human rights due to the upsurge in fighting by various armed groups in the country.  Belgium commended the cooperation of the Central African Republic with the Independent Expert.  Belgium was concerned about the massive displacement of the population and asked all parties to allow access of humanitarian personnel to all zones of the country.  The authorities were encouraged to step up to prosecute all the authors of violations of human rights. 

International Organization of la Francophonie said that the Secretary-General of the Organization of la Francophonie, Michaelle Jean, reiterated the need for the international community to unite its efforts to put an end to the cycle of violence against the civilian population in the Central African Republic.  The operationalization of the special criminal court was important to take into account the situation of the victims.  France welcomed the presence of the President of the Central African Republic in the Council.  France was concerned about the upsurge in attacks committed by armed groups and reiterated its support for the work of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.  The operationalization of the special criminal court was essential to progress justice.  Morocco expressed its gratitude to the Independent Expert for her presentation.  It shared her concern about the deterioration of the human rights situation and welcomed the decision taken to establish a special criminal court and a national human rights institution. 

Angola congratulated the Independent Expert on the report on the situation in the Central African Republic.  It congratulated the Government for the measures adopted in the fight against impunity.  Angola continued to assist the Central African authorities to promote the sovereignty of the country and it urged them to cooperate with the Human Rights Council.  United States was deeply concerned about the alarming increase in violence in the Central African Republic, which included targeted attacks against civilians, United Nations peacekeepers, and humanitarians.  Many such attacks appeared to be motivated by or based on religious or ethnic identity, including attacks against Muslims and Fulani, and these had to be fully investigated, including all cases of sexual exploitation, and perpetrators had to be held accountable.  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic had deteriorated considerably in 2017.  UNICEF was worried about the recruitment of children by armed groups.  In the first three months of 2017, 1,399 children had been released from armed groups, bringing the total number of children released from such groups to 11,944 since 2014.

United Kingdom was alarmed by the surge of violence, and in particular the deliberate targeting of civilians by some armed groups, as well as the recruitment of child soldiers and the sexual abuse against women and girls.  It welcomed the progress made towards the establishment of a special criminal court, and said the fight against impunity remained key towards justice.  European Union was concerned about the worsening situation in the last few months, and in particular the upsurge of violence in some regions.  It was concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic where civilians were the victims.  The European Union welcomed the 17 July signing of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation, and called upon all parties to implement it.  Gabon said yesterday the President of the Central African Republic had spoken at the Human Rights Council and this step was saluted by Gabon.  Gabon continued its efforts to support the Central African Republic.  Mozambique was appalled by the outbreak of violence in the Central African Republic with a devastating impact on innocent civilians who were targeted based on their perceived political alliance.  It urged the authorities to establish a special criminal court as soon as possible.

World Evangelical Alliance, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities, stated that in order to mark their attachment to peace in the Central African Republic, Christian and Muslim leaders had exchanged the Bible and the Koran.  Some elements of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic did not display impartiality.   What measures would the Independent Expert recommend to promote the social contract involving all segments of the society?  Amnesty International shared the alarm over the increasing sectarian violence committed by armed groups in the Central African Republic.  What additional measures could be taken to enhance the capacity of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic to prevent violence and protect civilians?  Human Rights Watch said it had documented hundreds of unlawful deaths in the past five months in the Central African Republic.  Both Seleka and anti-Balaka fighters had attacked civilians and had committed other abuses.  All parties had used rape and sexual violence as a tactic war on an alarming scale.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that since 2016 a worsening humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic could be observed, with serious human rights violations and displacement of people taking place.  The people had expressed a wish to see justice and the judicial system had to be independent.  Defence for Children International called for a continued focus on children’s issues in the Central African Republic, particularly their recruitment as soldiers.  Throughout the crisis, there had been evidence that they had been victims of murder, detention and torture.  International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in a joint statement, urged the Human Rights Council to provide finances to prevent human rights abuses and to enhance inclusive cooperation between all stakeholders.  Women’s participation in all peace negotiations should also be encouraged.

Concluding Remarks                                                                                                                      

MARIE-THERESE KEITA-BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, took note of the questions asked and comments made by all participants in a bid to improve her work.  The Central African Republic had submitted a plan for national recovery in Brussels that had been welcomed by international partners, including herself, and there were priority areas that the Central African Republic wished to seek support for.  Funds had been already been drawn down in the areas of security and justice.  The plan should continue to receive financing, particularly as regarded reconciliation and the implementation of resolution 13/25 on the involvement of women in conflict settlement.  The Independent Expert played a role in producing reports to identify the situation in the country, find solutions and prevent further issues from emerging.  Independence was essential to meet all priorities.  Security was also another priority and should go hand in hand with justice and reconciliation.  Reforming the security sector was vital to make the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process efficient.  Armed groups were still acting with impunity, increasing the risk of problems to reappear. 

Ms. Keita-Bocoum underlined that 1,200 military personnel had received training in the field of human rights.  Concerning an arms embargo, it was possible to request a partial ceasing of the embargo.  As part of the reform of the security sector, trained soldiers should be provided with arms.  The implication of women was also key to finding solutions to the conflict.  In Bangassou, a women’s organization had put in place a platform to prevent the conflict from worsening and had asked to receive support.  These kinds of initiatives must be transformed into national activities so that women would be encouraged to exercise their leadership.  Women should also receive support to bring their cases forward to courts.  For example, women magistrates should be made available to address gender based violence.

The Government had also begun to implement different transitional justice strategies. Once the security situation would allow it, it would be a first step towards justice as long as justice was made inclusive.  Reconciliation within the country must include all different elements.  Communications by the Government and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic should be strengthened in order to explain to the population what was happening in the country.  Local community radios could be used for this purpose.  Finally, Ms. Keita-Bocoum was concerned about the increase of violence against humanitarian facilities and personnel which had led to restricting humanitarian access.  Security should be strengthened for humanitarian personnel to avoid attacks that would amount to crimes against humanity.  These attacks must be followed-up and investigated.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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