By Deputy High Commissioner, Ms. Nada Al-NAshif
18 June 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to welcome the Government's participation in this high-level dialogue, represented by its Ambassador of the Central African Republic to the United Nations in Geneva, H.E. Mr. Leopold SAMBA.
I send my best regards to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic, Mr. Mankeur Ndiaye, who could not join us today due to urgent matters on the ground, and welcome his new Deputy SRSG for the Central African Republic, Ms Lizbeth Cullity.
I would also like to welcome the new Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in CAR, Mr. Yao Agbetse, as well as the Special Rapporteur of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child on Children and Armed Conflict, Prof. Benyam Dawit Mezmur. Finally, I wish to welcome the participation of Maître Brice Kévin Kakpaye, Chef de mission de ONG
Enfant sans Frontières.
While we commend the positive developments linked to the February 2019 Peace Agreement, notably progress in formally establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission through legislation adopted in February 2020, we note with continued concern that attacks on civilians and other human rights violations and abuses in the Central African Republic remain commonplace.
The Human Rights Division of MINUSCA, implementing the Mission’s human rights mandate as set out by the Security Council, from September 2019 to May 2020 documented 634 incidents of human rights abuses/violations and violations of international humanitarian law as well as grave child rights violations during this period. These incidents involved 1092 persons (including 156 women, 118 boys, and 72 girls) who were victims of killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, pillage, recruitment of children and other abuses and violations. More than 90 per cent of the victims were attributed to armed groups who are signatories of the Peace Agreement.
A number of armed groups signed an agreement pledging to end attacks on civilians, but their members have nevertheless continued to kill, maim, and abuse civilians. Documented abuses and violations have been concentrated in the country’s outer-lying prefectures in the north-western Ouham and Ouham-Pendé and in the central areas of Haute-Kotto, Bamingui-Bangoran and Ouaka.
Meanwhile, State agents, particularly the armed forces of CAR (the FACA), the police and the gendarmerie were responsible for 54 cases of human rights violations since September, involving 67 victims. This constitutes about 8.5 per cent of the total number of documented violations.
We are concerned about recent spikes of violence in CAR since late April in the area of Ndélé, in Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, where clashes between the Rounga and Goula factions of the
Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC)and their allies led to serious abuses of human rights from 4 March to 7 May 2020. An on-the-ground investigation by the MINUSCA Human Rights Division confirmed that armed elements of the two factions and their allies killed at least 42 civilians and injured more than 90 people. One of the victims is a seven-year-old girl who was beheaded, and the other - a four-month baby in the back of her mother both killed.
Reports indicate that children were used as human shields to prevent MINUSCA military peacekeepers from effectively deploying in the town of Ndélé to protect the population. At least two schools were ransacked, and one of them partially burnt.
The reported latest incidents, which will be described in more details by the Independent Expert and the DSRSG, remind us that preventing the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict and protecting their rights through their demobilization and reintegration is a critical current issue in the Central African Republic. Funding for long-term programmes to support the reintegration of these children must be prioritized. We hope that this high-level interactive dialogue will shed more light on the situation and options for addressing it.
I wish also to raise concerns about the fact that humanitarian actors continue to be widely targeted in CAR. During the above-mentioned clashes in Ndélé, humanitarian actors were attacked, and their offices, stores of food and other items for distribution to beneficiaries, including children, were pillaged. They have therefore been forced to suspend their operations in that area.
The attack perpetrated on humanitarian actors increases the vulnerabilities of the population, in particular in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, more than 8,000 people living in this area have been displaced, and providing them with assistance remains a challenge.
It is particularly regrettable that the FPRC, which had responded positively to the Secretary-General’s call for ceasefires in the context of COVID-19, is responsible for these serious incidents. As always, it will be essential to ensure accountability of perpetrators.
Since the 2015 Bangui Forum, support provided by MINUSCA has had a huge impact on the transitional justice process in CAR. It has yielded positive results including the establishment and nomination of members of the Steering Committee tasked with establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission in 2017/2018; the adoption and promulgation of the law in 2019/2020 and the finalization of the work of the Inclusive Commission.
To maintain the current momentum and build on gains achieved, support for the establishment of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission needs to be prioritized. There is an urgent need to proceed with the nomination of the Commissioners and full operationalization of the Commission.
Let me seize this opportunity to recognize the important role played by the MINUSCA. Their efforts to promote the implementation of the Peace Agreement and hold accountable those who violate it are important notably the whole-of-Mission approach for the protection of the population in CAR, while is consistently informed by up-to-date information on human rights violations and abuses, as well as on their perpetrators. Particularly in this time of increased risk and concern related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that human rights work in conflict environments continue.
Encouraged by the judicial progress and cooperation among the MINUSCA, CAR authorities and the Special Criminal Court, I urge CAR authorities to continue to reinforce State authority throughout the country to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations and violations of international human rights law. I also urge the three ex-Seleka factions which signed the Action Plans with the United Nations to prevent and stop grave child rights violations against children to uphold their commitments. I urge all armed groups to refrain from attacking civilians, protect children and keep their commitments under the Peace Agreement.
I would like to commend the Government on the recent adoption of the Child Protection Code which includes the prosecution of grave child rights violations, including recruitment and use of children below 18 years, as well as attacks against humanitarians and against schools and hospitals. This is a remarkable achievement. I urge the government to promulgate the code and expedite its implementation. Through MINUSCA, we offer our support to the Government to roll out and operationalize this new legislation.
Finally, as the country is heading towards presidential elections scheduled for December, it is important that the State ensure that all citizens fully enjoy their civil and political rights. Moreover, all parties should refrain from hate speech, as it is detrimental to social cohesion, and is a breeding ground for violence, undermining the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and human rights for all.
I thank you.