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CAR: Zeid warns against risk of further violence as elections approach

GENEVA/BANGUI (11 December 2015) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein condemned on Friday the ongoing inter-communal violence and expressed deep concern at the increasing use of sectarian language in the Central African Republic (CAR), warning that this could have dramatic consequences given the highly volatile pre-election atmosphere.

“I strongly condemn the incitement of violence and provocation of inter-communal tensions by some armed groups and political leaders. This could very easily lead to yet another wave of targeted attacks in the country,” the High Commissioner said. 

“I am also deeply concerned that all sides, including the authorities at the highest level, are calling for vigilante groups to be established,” he said. “The increasing tendency among Christians and Muslims to organize in self-defence groups and to exclude any person not considered part of their community is deeply worrying,” he added, noting that the mixed neighbourhoods could soon vanish altogether.

Deploring the violent incidents that took place in Bangui earlier this week after the list of eligible candidates for the upcoming presidential elections was made public, Zeid called upon the State authorities to take urgent action to stem incitement to violence and hatred, and to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

He also urged political leaders to call on their supporters to peacefully participate to the constitutional referendum this weekend and to the presidential and legislative elections which are due in two weeks.

A new wave of inter-communal violence has killed at least 130 people and injured 430 since the end of September. Eleven cases of sexual and gender-based violence were also documented. Attacks against personnel of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA) and international troops in several parts of the country are also on the rise.

In one single incident in the North-Western town of Batangafo, clashes left at least nine people dead, including 6 civilians and one peacekeeper, and five others injured early November. Some 730 huts were also torched. As a result, some 13,000 people were forced to seek refuge at the MINUSCA’s premises. The security situation in Batangafo still remains very tense.

“The Pope’s recent visit and strong statement in favour of inter-communal reconciliation, forgiveness and peace has created a momentum which could overturn the downward spiral of the past months,” said Zeid. He also praised the long standing efforts to promote the inter-religious dialogue of Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyamene-Gbangou, the President of the Evangelical Alliance, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, the President of the Islamic Council, and Mgr Dieudonné Zapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui.

“To bring the country back to peace and stability, one of the key priorities, if not the most important, is to put an end to the long prevailing impunity,” the High Commissioner stressed. “The lack of accountability undermines the authority of State institutions and feeds the violence, by empowering armed groups and encouraging citizens to take justice into their own hands,” he added.

“The establishment of the Special Criminal Court will be a very important step to ensure accountability,” said the High Commissioner, who urged MINUSCA to increase its assistance for national investigations and prosecutions. He also called on the international community to increase its financial support.

The High Commissioner warned armed group members and their leaders responsible for serious violations of human rights law and of international humanitarian law that one day they will be prosecuted by national or international courts and brought to justice.

He also urged the State authorities to reform, vet and train the national army forces (Forces armées centrafricaines - FACA) and to investigate the increasing number of human rights violations they have been accused of, including their alleged involvement in the mass escape at the Ngaragba Prison and the killing of at least four Muslim civilians between 26 September and 17 October.

A first human rights report* by MINUSCA and OHCHR issued today shows that, despite a general improvement during the reporting period, human rights violations continued on a daily basis in CAR between September 2014 and May 2015. At least 785 people, including 88 women and 43 children, were victims of human rights violations in CAR, including killings, torture, abductions, sexual violence and hostage-taking. The report also notes that these violations were mainly the result of armed groups’ ability to operate freely throughout parts of the country and the culture of impunity. Internally displaced persons appeared to be particularly vulnerable to violations, with the elderly and the children being disproportionately affected.

ENDS

* To access the full report, please go to: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/CF/MINUSCA_9Dec2015.pdf
For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org ) or mailto:rshamdasani@ohchr.orgCécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)
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