GENEVA / BANGUI (1 February 2019) — All sides involved in the peace process in the Central African Republic must make a sincere and urgent commitment to secure an outcome that respects the needs of the people in an inclusive manner, as an essential condition for the return of security, says a UN human rights expert.
"If armed groups claim their place in the peace process, they must stop all violence immediately. Their actions have inflicted too many civilian casualties, demonstrating an apparent contempt for human dignity, reconciliation and the right to development,” says the Independent Expert on the country, Marie-Therese Keïta-Bocoum, at the end of a 10-day mission to the Central African Republic.
Ms Keïta-Bocoum strongly condemned the unacceptable violence, which has occurred over the past weeks in Alindao, Batangafo, Bambari and now Ippy.
During her visit, Ms Keïta-Bocoum heard strong pleas for peace and reconciliation from the Central African authorities, civil society, victims’ associations, humanitarian groups and technical and financial partners.
"All the elements are in place to secure ambitious and prosperous growth in the Central African Republic, in line with the UN sustainable development goals. The peace agreement currently under discussion and the return of security could lead to the start of major projects," she said.
Ms Keita-Bocoum welcomed recent efforts to conduct national consultations with women, and called for their participation in public and political life to be strengthened. She also had meetings with, groups representing young people, including students and demobilized minors who had been involved in the conflict, and noted the urgency of providing to all of them, training opportunities, psychological support and other necessary help to foster social and professional integration.
"Adopting a child protection code, building shelters and vocational training centres, renovating schools and adapting juvenile justice to international standards are national imperatives for the benefit of the young people of the Central African Republic and to prevent their involvement in the conflict,” the expert stressed.
Ms Keita-Bocoum also examined issues relating to criminal justice. She praised the actions of the International Criminal Court, the start of the work of the Special Criminal Court and the holding of sessions by the Assize Court, and stressed the importance of ensuring their financial and technical viability.
However, after visiting prisons for women and young people, Ms Keita-Bocoum deplored the important number of long-term inmates who have no information on their legal record or of any legal assistance granted to them. "I urge magistrates to correct these violations of the right of access to justice and the right to a fair trial."
During her visit, the expert attended a seminar on transitional justice bringing together nearly 60 people from government, international organizations, the diplomatic corps and civil society, and encouraged them to maintain the framework of talks to develop a coherent transitional justice road map with the aim of tackling the root causes of the conflict and guaranteeing there can be no repetition.
“Participants must try to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and reflect without further delay on reparations programmes, and the return of people and refugees displaced by the conflict. The Central African Republic must guarantee the rights of displaced people and ease their voluntary return to their homes as a cornerstone of national reconciliation,” the UN expert stressed.
Ms Keïta-Bocoum also noted that the country was living through an internationally neglected humanitarian crisis and acknowledged the many efforts of aid workers in addressing the needs of more than 60 percent of the population despite obstacles to humanitarian access and unacceptable attacks by armed groups.
"The state must strengthen its commitments to the creation and upgrading of health, education and social services, and redeploy the civil administration, where possible," the UN expert said. She also called for an evaluation of the national recovery and peacebuilding plan in the Central African Republic, focusing on the rules of good governance and the interests of the people.
The independent expert will report on her mission to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 20 March 2019.
Ms Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum is the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. The mandate was established by the UN Human Rights Council on 27 September 2013. Ms Keita Bocoum, a former professor at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire, has 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.
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
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