The 48th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council,
13 September - 8 October 2021
ITEM 10 – Technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Central African Republic
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic
6 - 7 October 2021
By: Amie Sillito/GICJ
In its resolution 45/35, the Human Rights Council decided to renew, for a period of one year, the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic and requested the Independent Expert to submit a written report to the Council at its forty-eighth session. The Council participated in an interactive dialogue to discuss the report of the Independent Expert whereby the Independent Expert called upon the international community to pledge their resources and financial support to rebuild infrastructure and the education sector in the CAR. The delegate for the Central African Republic reaffirmed the government’s commitment to rooting out impunity and creating a stable social and economic climate in the country. The delegate shared that the government had driven out belligerent groups occupying government buildings and that it was continuing the crackdown on armed groups wreaking havoc and creating instability throughout the different provinces.
Numerous delegations expressed their concern over the deteriorating security situation in the CAR and Russian military personnel accused of committing gross human rights violations. Non-governmental organisations highlighted the issue of landmines and the threat which they pose to the safety of children and humanitarian personnel. The Independent Expert delivered his final remarks and provided measures which could be used to prevent further violations of human rights. It was emphasised that prosecution channels must be strengthened, and full investigations carried out in order to achieve justice. The Independent Expert called on the international community to provide resources and assistance to the CAR to guarantee stability and peace in the region.
The present report was submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 45/35 of 7 October 2020 and covers the period of July 2020 to June 2021 in which the Independent Expert was able to meet and exchange with various actors in the field including state authorities, justice institutions, United Nations agencies and bodies, representatives of the diplomatic corps, Central African and international civil society organizations. At the forty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council, the Independent Expert participated in the interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic and highlighted challenges relating to the evolution of the human rights situation in the state, emphasising the extent of measures taken to fight impunity, specifically in the electoral context.
The Independent Expert issued an urgent call for a ceasefire and an inclusive dialogue for peaceful and credible elections whilst condemning violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed during the electoral period. The Independent Expert also issued a joint communique with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights concerning the Central African authorities on the prohibition of hate speech and the need to ensure respect fundamental rights in light of government elections.
Report of the Independent Expert
Report A/HRC/48/81 on the situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic.
The politico-military crisis in the Central African Republic came to a head when the Coalition of Patriots for Change was formed on December 19th and resulted in the launching of military offensives in numerous localities. Since the debate in March 2021 on the fight against impunity, the Coalition of Patriots for Change have continued to make threats and implement attacks, recruit child soldiers, perpetrate sexual violence and commit inhuman acts against civilians. In the report, the Independent Expert emphasised that he was extremely concerned over the fate of victims and called upon the Security Council Committee to include most of the coalition’s leaders in the sanction’s list established pursuant to resolution 2127(2013) concerning the Central African Republic. Following the re-election of President Touadéra, there has been an increase in attacks by the Coalition against local authorities in various prefectures as well as agents of the electoral authority and the general public for participating in the election held on 27 December 2020. The Independent Expert praised the decision to transfer Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, former Seleka commander in January 2021 to the International Criminal Court for suspected crimes such as torture, persecution and enforced disappearances in Bangui 2013. The Central African Republic indicated that it resolutely committed itself to a zero-tolerance policy of impunity in light of the Universal Periodic Review. The Independent Expert called on the international community to expedite the necessary procedures to ensure that identified individuals and entities are held accountable.
The report highlighted the combined efforts of the Central African Armed Forces and the MINUSCA Blue C’s in driving out armed groups in localities such as Bouar, Kaga-Bandoro, Bambari and Ndélé. In the process of driving out armed groups, actors on the ground brought to the attention of the Independent Expert, multiple allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by Russian instructors in partnership with the Central African government. The Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violation Human Rights and Preventing the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination issued a communiqué to report abuses and attacks on the civilian population and the human rights violations perpetrated by Russian instructors. Accordingly, the CAR has set up a commission of inquiry to shed light on the allegations of abuses and violations committed by such groups. The report is alarming as it brings to light the multitude of human rights violations including rampant sexual violence and abuses of children’s rights.
The report attributed the increase in huma rights violations from the period of January to June 2021 to the electoral crisis and military offensive launched by the Central African Defense and Security Forces in collaboration with other security forces to reconquer territories previously controlled by armed groups. According to MINUCSA’s Human Rights Division, the Central African Armed forces and the Central African Defense were implicated in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Attacks, reprisals and threats and rumors of attacks by the Coalition has resulted in thousands of civilians fleeing their homes to seek refuge around MINUSCA bases, in the bush or in neighbouring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, the Congo and the DRC since the beginning of the electoral crisis.
Moreover, food insecurity was brought to the forefront of the report with the Office of the Coordination of Foreign Workers reporting that 2.3 million people have been affected by this issue in April 2021. In addition, there was a 29% increase since the end of 2020 in the number of children under the age of 5 who are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Due to high levels of poverty, children remain vulnerable to exploitation, and many have been recruited by the Coalition of Patriots for Change to fight or serve as cooks, messengers, porters, guards and “wives”. The Independent Expert condemned non-compliance by armed groups with the agreements signed with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict however armed groups continue to recruit children into their ranks.
Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation operations have continued in the CAR In November 2020 progress was made when the Central African authorities inaugurated new buildings housing the Special Criminal Court, appointing all Central African judges to sit on the Court. The Independent Expert commended the efforts made by the Special Rapporteur and the investigating judges to carry out necessary investigation however the IE noted that no hearings have taken place since the court’s establishment and there is concern that evidence will disappear or become more exploitable, preventing justice from taking its course. The Independent Expert emphasized that a special repatriation fund should be created as a form of recourse to victims as well as the mobilisation of a legal aid scheme which are essential to the success of the Court’s mission.
Education has been negatively impacted by the civil unrest in the CAR, as armed groups have undermined the physical integrity of children and their freedom of movement in conflict zones. Repeated disruptions in schools are attributed to direct attacks on civilian populations, abuses, looting of homes, occupation of schools used as a base for belligerents, destruction of schools and equipment such as textbooks to be used as firewood, threats to teachers and attacks on humanitarian personnel. These violations deprive CAR children from fundamental rights including access to education, the right to work in a safe and serene learning environment and the right to develop skills they will need to build a better future for their communities.
Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert
Geneva, 6 and 7 October 2021.- At the 38th and 39th meeting of the 48th Regular session of the Human Rights Council, the Independent Expert held an interactive dialogue regarding developments in the Central African Republic under Item 10 of the Agenda.
Mr Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic presented his report to the Council which covered the period up until June 2021 on the situation of human rights in the CAR. The Independent Expert opened the session by condemning acts of violence and instability caused by armed groups in the region and called upon them to cease all acts of terror. He raised concerns over the presence of Russian military personnel in the country after receiving numerous reports of human rights violations and international law perpetrated by this group.
On topic of the DDRR, the Independent Expert highlighted that his report called for new impetus for the acute need to invest in areas that have been liberated from the hold of armed groups with state services notably, state security, justice, health, education, access to safe drinking water and unrestricted free movement. He emphasised that the international community must pledge all resources and technology to the cause in the CAR and the DDRR process. The Independent Expert noted the effort of authorities in deploying defence forces to engender stability and peace however, he emphasised the urgent need to expedite the pace of such efforts and re-establish and maintain security in areas that have been taken by armed groups. The IE emphasised that there is a lot of work ahead to restore the population’s trust in legal institutions affected by corruption, nevertheless progress has been made in the right direction.
The Independent Expert went on to highlight the alarming rates of sexual and gender-based violence related to conflict in the CAR. He revealed that in spite of the legal framework set out by the joint communique in 2019 signed by the government, the reality of victims of sexual violence is a significant concern. The report underscored 12 cases of sexual exploitation and abuse involving staff of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic, 8 allegations involving military staff and 4 involving police staff. The Independent Expert stressed that it is vital that states where the Blue Helmets come from, and persons involved, cooperate with the MINUSCA and the justiciary to shed light on these cases an implement appropriate sanctions for perpetrators. He also stated that holistic support should be made available to victims and that authorities must identify perpetrators in an expeditious manner for the purpose of seeking justice.
The report brought to the forefront the extent of malnutrition in the CAR and the high levels of displacement due to the conflict. It was noted that in regaining state authority, educational reforms must be implemented as technical training and agriculture vocation programmes were destroyed through instability and the destruction of schools, educational materials and machinery by armed groups and the SDS. The Independent Expert concluded his statement by calling upon the international community to pledge all resources and technology to rebuild schools, train teachers and provide school equipment to the CAR in order to ensure the 2020-2029 Educational Sector plan is implemented.
The delegate for the Central African Republic succeeded the Independent Expert in the line of speakers and reaffirmed that the President of the Central African Republic has made justice the cornerstone of public policy for a peaceful, united and prosperous country. It was elucidated that the government’s fight against impunity is visible in all measures and policies implemented to protect and promote human rights.
The delegate confirmed that houses and schools formerly occupied by the Coalition of Patriots for Change, have been liberated however the government is still concerned and condemns the upsurge of violence perpetrated by armed groups, including abductions, unlawful exploitation of mining resources and the use of anti-personnel landmines. Such actions have negatively affected freedom of movement and basic safety for the population. He revealed that the CPC continue to commit serious human rights violations, the most barbaric cases include the recent slaughter of 20 innocent civilian persons who were burned alive in Bambari. He concluded that the human rights situation in the Central African Republic has improved despite such atrocities and that the government, and the people of the CAR are grateful for the international community’s support.
The European Union stated that it was concerned over the worsening security situation in the CAR. The delegate emphasised that the persistence of armed groups is especially worrying, particularly the effect on civilian populations and that the high levels of abuse and recruitment of children into armed groups is an issue which must be addressed by African Officials immediately. The importance of a safe environment was raised as a concern, and the delegate stated that the Central African Forces, security companies and their employers must be held accountable for human rights violations taking place in the country, specifically the WAGNER group. She highlighted those armed clashes have also restricted humanitarian workers’ operations in the country and called upon the CAR authorities to guarantee safe humanitarian access.
The delegate for the United Nations Children’s Fund revealed that the Central African Republic remains one of the worst countries to grow up in as a child with ongoing human rights violations including the recruitment of child soldiers and sexual violence committed against children. She went on to state that UNICEF is concerned over the use of explosive devices in mines which create additional risks to children and impede humanitarian access. UNICEF called upon all parties involved in the conflict in the CAR to end hostilities and human rights violations committed against children.
The Russian Federation criticised the report, stating it was not surprised the Independent Expert delayed the release of his report as there were a multitude of inaccuracies within the report. The delegate highlighted the report’s criticism of Russian military instructors and labelled such criticism as a campaign of defamation against the Russian state. He went on to specify that point 15 which mentions military personnel, was unclear as to whom it was referring and stated that any Russian personnel operating within the CAR were not arbitrary as labelled by the report, but rather they were there at the official request of the state. He went on to clarify that these specialists operate in the CAR to provide military training for local armies and other domestic law enforcement personnel to resolve the complex political situation in the country. The delegate asserted that the Russian Federation would continue to contribute towards the protection and preserving of human rights and called upon other states to do the same.
Civil society expressed their concern over the Russian military presence in the state and the ongoing human rights violations committed by such groups. The increased use of explosive devices such as landmines was also raised as a concern since it violates international humanitarian law and limits the reach and work of humanitarian organisations. The creation of the Special Criminal Court was viewed as a step in the right direction to eradicate impunity however the slow progress made by the court in prosecuting individuals accused of human rights violations was noted as a hinderance to achieving justice.
The session concluded with the Independent Expert delivering his final remarks whereby he thanked the delegations and international organisations for participating in the interactive dialogue. He noted Russia’s concerns and stated that he was willing to speak with the Russian Federation to clarify the human rights issues highlighted in the report concerning military personnel in the CAR. The IE noted that preventative measures must be taken to prevent the further violation of human rights including intensifying the fight against impunity and carrying out thorough investigations into alleged perpetrators of sexual violence. He reiterated the need to prosecute individuals listed on the sanctions committee on the CAR which includes majority of the leaders of armed groups. The Independent Expert also noted the need to prosecute the blue helmets and Russian instructors whose involvement in human rights violations have been established by the fact-finding mission. He concluded that prevention also takes the form of technical assistance through regular criminal justice and improving security, particularly when it comes to security training, provision of equipment and deployment of trained police officials.
Position of Geneva International Centre for Justice
We commend the government on legislative and institutional measures taken to protect the civilian population from ongoing violence. The recent charges against Captain Eugène Ngaïkosset by the Special Criminal Court are seen as a sign of progress in securing justice and rooting out impunity. We encourage the national courts to continue prosecuting suspected human rights violators and urge the government to implement protective mechanisms to prevent threats and intimidation directed at the judiciary.
In light of the progress made, Geneva International Centre for Justice remains concerned over the targeting of humanitarian workers by militia groups who continue to attack and capture innocent workers. Groups such as these must be held accountable and prosecuted, with appropriate sentencing for crimes committed including the recruitment of child soldiers and the destruction and looting of property.
The Central African Republic requires support from the international community however, intervention coincides with the obligation to abide by international and domestic law. We hereby call on the Russian Federation to take action against Russian mercenaries situated in the country accused of homicide, rape, and causing significant instability.
Justice, Human rights, Geneva, geneva4justice, GICJ, Geneva International Centre For Justice
Previous Reports from the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
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