Central African Republic 2019
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Central African Republic 2019

Various armed groups committed serious human rights abuses including unlawful killings, sexual violence and illegal taxation. Armed groups continued to profit from the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Impunity persisted despite important efforts made at the national and international levels. Authorities infringed freedom of assembly.

Background

On 6 February 2019, the government and 14 armed groups signed a political agreement for peace and reconciliation (peace agreement) with the aim of ending a conflict that is plunging the population into great insecurity. In accordance with the peace agreement, an inclusive government was set up on 03 March, including leaders of armed groups. Crimes and serious human rights abuses nevertheless continued to be committed by various armed groups, including the ex-Seleka and the anti-balaka, against civilians and about 80% of the territory is still under control of armed groups.

Abuses by armed groups

Various armed groups, including those who are signatories of the peace agreement, continued to commit serious abuses against civilians, including unlawful killings, sexual violence and illegal taxation.

Between February and October, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) recorded about 600 cases of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, affecting at least 1000 individuals. Amongst the most serious security incidents, elements of the armed group Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R), killed at least 40 people on 21 May in several villages (Lemouna, Koundjiki and Bohong) in Ouham Pendé province. More than 30 people were killed on 25 December, as clashes erupted in PK5 neighborhood of Bangui between armed elements and traders.

The UN continued to report many cases of sexual violence in vast majority committed by elements of armed groups.

The Central African Republic remained one of the most dangerous countries for the humanitarian personnel. In the October report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council, the UN recorded between January and August, 188 attacks against humanitarian staff, offices or goods. In the same period three humanitarian personnel were killed.

Impunity

Significant efforts were made at national and international levels to address chronic impunity for suspected perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses in successive conflicts since 2003. 

Although the Central African justice system lacks means and capacity, the ordinary courts of Bangui and Bouar held criminal sessions and looked into cases of human rights abuses committed by armed groups. Thus, Colonel Abdoulaye Alkali-Said, a prominent member of the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique – (MPC), Seleka armed group, was sentenced on 23 September during a criminal session in Bangui to six years in prison for criminal conspiracy; the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity were dismissed for lack of evidence. However, there are some serious concerns over due process and fairness of these proceedings.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) made noticeable steps towards its operationalization. In a statement of June, the SCC declared it received 27 complaints; opened preliminary inquiries into 4 ‘incidents’; and received 3 cases transferred by the ordinary courts and which are under analysis by the investigating chambers. In August, the case concerning the 21 May killings was also transferred to the SCC. The SCC, established by law in June 2015 and officially inaugurated in October 2018, is a “hybrid” jurisdiction, with both national and international judges and staff and with an initial mandate of 5 years to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law.

Cases related to the situation in the Central African Republic were also brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC). On 23 January, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, leader of an anti-balaka faction, was transferred to the ICC for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 2013 and 2014. The case was joined on 20 February to the one against Alfred Yekatom, also head of an anti-balaka armed group, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 11 December, the ICC issued a decision partly confirming the charges against Ngaïssona and Yekatom. Seized in 2014 by the government, the ICC is competent to investigate and prosecute crimes under international law allegedly committed since 2012 in the Central African Republic, in complementarity and coordination with the SCC.

In addition, in accordance with the peace agreement, a presidential decree of 8 February created an inclusive commission composed of representatives of the armed groups that signed the peace agreement and national authorities; the commission has to propose recommendations for the future Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (TJRRC). The inclusive commission held its inaugural session on 28 May. On 20 June, national consultations were launched to design the new law establishing the TJRRC.

Internally displaced persons

Humanitarian access remained extremely difficult due to insecurity. As of 31 October, about 600 000 persons were internally displaced.

Freedoms of expression and assembly

On 10 April, the Groupe de Travail de la Société Civile (GTSC) called for a demonstration on 15 April to protest against the appointment of representatives of armed groups in the government. On the eve of the protest, which ultimately did not take place, GTSC spokesperson Paul Crescent Beninga was arrested for allegedly threatening state security. He was released on 21 April.

In May, a few days after the serious human rights abuses committed by members of the 3R armed group in localities of Lemouna, Koundjiki and Bohong (Ouham Pendé province), the Front Uni pour la Défense de la Nation (United Front for the Defense of the Nation), a coalition of opposition political figures and civil society organizations’ representatives called for demonstrations on 15, 22 and 29 June to denounce the inclusion of representatives of armed groups in the government and the lack of results of this measure for peace and security. The Ministry of Interior issued a statement outlining the risk of the presence of terrorists during the gatherings and thus banned the demonstrations. Nevertheless, about 100 people demonstrated on 15 June and were dispersed by security forces.

Illegal exploitation of resources

The export of rough diamonds from important part of the territory was still suspended, according to the Kimberley Process. Yet armed groups continued to profit from the illegal exploitation of natural resources. Clashes between armed groups continued for mine control.

On 13 July, a parliamentary report denounced Chinese mining companies’ responsibility in an ecological disaster and pollution of the Ouham River in the region of Bozoum, north-west of Bangui. It recommended a judicial investigation into possible fraudulent implications of politicians and senior officials in obtaining business licenses.