Violence and insecurity escalated in the north of the country. On 29 January, an armed group attacked the security forces in the town of Paoua, Ouham-Pende province. At least 80 civilians, many of them unarmed, were killed by government forces during a counter-attack. About 7,000 people fled to neighbouring Chad, while an estimated 50,000 more were internally displaced, with little or no access to humanitarian assistance.
Attacks by armed groups persisted throughout the year. In June, UN sources reported that 33 people had been killed in a rebel attack on an army camp in the north.
Government forces continued to be supported by French and Chadian troops, and by members of a peacekeeping force backed by the Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (Communauté économique et monétaire d'Afrique centrale, CEMAC). CEMAC peacekeepers received material help from the European Union.
In August former President Ange-Félix Patassé and three other former politicians were tried in their absence on charges of fraud and embezzling public funds. They were convicted of fraud and sentenced to up to 20 years' imprisonment. Ange-Félix Patassé's former economic advisor, Simon Kouloumba, was acquitted and released. He had been awaiting trial since 2003.
The authorities failed to take action against members of the security forces who reportedly killed and injured dozens of unarmed civilians in Ouham-Pende and Ouham provinces in late January and February. Government forces, particularly members of the Republican Guard, reportedly targeted unarmed civilians, including boys as young as 10. At least 17 students from Paoua college were reported to have been extrajudicially executed by members of the Republican Guard.
• At least 80 people were reportedly killed by regular government forces in Paoua in January and February. The victims included Florent Djembert, Vincent Bozoukon and William Béré. Four unidentified bodies were reportedly burned in the local gendarmerie compound. No investigation into the deaths was reported.
• A former member of the Republican Guard, who had allegedly killed several people but was released without charge after being arrested in 2005, continued to threaten human rights defenders before he was killed by insurgents in May. In January he reportedly threatened Maka Gbossokoto, director of Le Citoyen newspaper, Nganatouwa Goungaye Wanfiyo, a lawyer, and Adolphe Ngouyombo, a human rights activist.
There was no progress by the government in bringing to justice those responsible for serious human rights abuses, including hundreds of rapes, during conflict in late 2002 and early 2003. The International Criminal Court (ICC) continued to conduct a preliminary analysis of crimes committed during the period, following a referral of the situation by the government in 2005. At the end of the year, the ICC had not announced whether or not it would launch a full investigation.
Political arrests, detentions and trials
Several dozen people were arrested between February and April 2006 and accused of supporting armed groups seeking to overthrow President François Bozizé's government. Many were members of former President Ange-Félix Patassé's Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (Mouvement de libération du peuple centrafricain), or came from the same Kaba ethnic group.
They were held for weeks or months without charge and without access to their families, lawyers and doctors. In May and June, about 25 were charged with endangering the internal security of the state and related offences.
• Lydie Florence Ndouba, an official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was arrested on 28 February, apparently because she was the sister of two prominent politicians critical of the government. She was held without charge until 11 May, when she was charged with endangering the security of the state. At her trial in August she told the Criminal Court that she had been ill-treated in custody. She was acquitted.
• Pascal Ngakoutou Beninga, a teacher at Bangui University, reported that he was taken to a wood and threatened with death by members of the Republican Guard on 25 March. He was accused of having provided accommodation to armed men and of possessing weapons. Members of the security forces searched his house but reportedly found nothing incriminating.
In August and September, about 25 detainees were tried by the Criminal Court in Bangui. Approximately 20 were acquitted.
• Of 16 people tried for endangering the internal security of the state and related charges, 15 were acquitted and one convicted on a lesser charge on 12 September. However, 14 were not released but taken from Ngaragba prison on 13 September by members of the Republican Guard to Bossembélé prison in Ombella-Mpoko province. Members of the Central African Republic Bar Association went on strike in protest, and the government was widely criticized. On 25 September, the detainees were returned to Bangui and released.
At the end of 2006, at least 20 detainees were still held, accused of having connections with armed groups. It was unclear whether all of them had been formally charged.
AI delegates visited several detention centres in Bangui, including Ngaragba prison, Bimbo prison and the National Gendarmerie's Research and Investigation Department (Section de recherche et d'investigation, SRI). They found that conditions were so harsh as to be life-threatening.
In most prisons and detention centres, detainees received no food other than that brought by friends or relatives. Many complained of not having enough to eat or suffering from malnutrition. Cells were overcrowded and insanitary.
Detainees suffering ill-health were denied access to medical care. Minors were held together with adults, and unconvicted detainees were held with convicted prisoners. According to reports, in detention centres outside Bangui men and women were generally held together in even worse conditions.
AI country reports/visits
• Central African Republic: Government tramples on the basic rights of detainees (AI Index: AFR 19/007/2006)
AI delegates visited the Central African Republic in May.