Impunity: a major challenge to peace and democracy in Central African Republic

UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay said Thursday that impunity for human rights violations was one of the major long-term challenges facing the Central African Republic (CAR).

The High Commissioner had back-to-back meetings with CAR government officials - © BINUCAThe Central African Republic is located in a region that has been marred by conflicts in recent decades. For years the country has suffered the consequences of not only its own civil unrest but also of those affecting several of its neighbours. It is also one of the world’s poorest and most neglected countries.

The High Commissioner, who was speaking to journalists during a one-day visit to the country’s capital Bangui, noted that the country faced many challenges. Despite reports of improvement in the area, children continue to be recruited by armed groups. Sexual violence against women is widespread and although female genital mutilation is prohibited by law in CAR, it is still carried out.

She also expressed concern about the impunity for human rights violations such as summary executions, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention that have been attributed to State law enforcement officials and armed forces.

“All governments should act firmly to halt crimes such as these, and those responsible should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, should receive appropriate punishment, irrespective of who they are,” the High Commissioner said.

The High Commissioner also praised the government for its willingness to engage with UN human rights monitoring mechanisms. In May 2009, the country fully cooperated with the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process and accepted the majority of its recommendations. It has also cooperated with UN independent experts dealing with extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions and internally displaced people, as well as with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

Locally, the Central African Government has taken further steps to improve its human rights record by committing to setting up a National Human Rights Commission. It also plans to adopt a National Plan of Action on Human Rights by the end of 2010.

Navi Pillay, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to have made an official visit to the country, met with the Prime Minister and other senior State officials. She also met with NGOs and other members of civil society.

At the end of her visit, the High Commissioner said she had congratulated the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice on the recent adoption by the National Assembly of the revised penal code and criminal procedure code. She also expressed her hope that the adoption of these revised laws will improve the administration of justice in CAR, in particular the independence of the judiciary and the fight against impunity.

Noting the openness of the Central African authorities to address human rights concerns, the High Commissioner called upon the international community to provide assistance to the Government and civil society alike.

19 February 2010