Central African Republic: End decades of abuse

The report Central African Republic: Action needed to end decades of abuse describes how people in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been terrorised for decades by armed groups which operate without being held to account.

Despite peace agreements and a fledgling disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration process, armed conflict continues to ravage the country resulting in civilian deaths and mass internal displacement.

Amnesty International's Central Africa researcher Godfrey Byaruhanga said:

"The CAR covers an enormous territory and most of it is a black hole in terms of human rights. At least 14 armed groups are currently operating in the country yet the government has consistently shown itself to be incapable or unwilling to take action to protect its citizens.

"Grave human rights violations, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, are committed with appalling frequency but the justice vacuum that exists in the country means there’s no end in sight."

The CAR government has weak control over the country with an ill-equipped, ill-disciplined and poorly trained security force which itself commits human rights violations. The malfunctioning domestic justice system has failed to prosecute anyone for crimes under international law despite the crimes being incorporated in its Penal Code in January 2010.

Measures such as amnesties, which are often incorporated into peace agreements between the government and armed groups, as well as a failure to prosecute members of the security forces and armed group leaders, will continue to encourage others to commit human rights abuses.

Since the Central African Republic was referred to the International Criminal Court in December 2004 only one arrest has been made. Congolese armed group leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is currently on trial at The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and the war crimes of murder, rape and pillage.

Godfrey Byaruhanga added:

"The investigation and prosecution of abuses that indicate that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed are a shared responsibility of both the international community and the CAR."

"Despite repeated attempts to solve the crisis, the situation has not improved for civilians. In late 2008, for example, the US government financed and supported the Ugandan national army to end the threat of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - one of the armed groups now operating in the CAR. The Ugandan forces killed some LRA fighters and dispersed others but did not bring an end to the group's activities. Instead, the LRA have spread to other parts of the CAR."

In 2008, LRA fighters abducted F Mboligassie and dozens of other civilians from south-eastern Central African Republic and took them to the Democratic Republic of Congo. F and other women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by LRA commanders, while boys and men were forced to fight for the LRA. Mboligassie and others were able to escape after LRA camps were attacked by the UPDF. She eventually returned to the CAR but she and other abductees live in fear of further attacks.

Godfrey Byaruhanga said:

"The investigation of abuses in the CAR and the bringing to justice of those responsible deserve the same coordinated response and shared material, financial and personnel resources that states devote to other serious crimes.

"The people of CAR have suffered enough. The country';s international partners must now commit themselves to the implementation of new, viable measures to address this diabolical situation."

Amnesty International is calling on the African Union, through its Peace and Security Council, to take the lead to coordinate measures to build a coalition of governments and inter-governmental organisations for the purpose of protecting and promoting human rights in the African country.

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Central African Republic: Action needed to end decades of abuse