Central African Republic: Evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity

War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in the Central African Republic with more than 1,000 people killed in a two day-period, Amnesty International revealed today after returning from a two-week research trip to the country.

The information is included in a new briefing None of us are safe: War crimes and crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic following the trip.

Amnesty is calling for the rapid deployment of a robust UN peacekeeping force with a clear mandate to protect civilians and with sufficient resources to do so effectively.

Speaking at a press conference in London on his return, Amnesty International’s Central Africa expert Christian Mukosa, said:

“Our in-depth research on the ground in the Central African Republic over the past two weeks has left no room for doubt that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all parties to the conflict.

“Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques, and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people.

“There can be no prospect of ending the cycle of violence until the militias are disarmed and there is proper and effective protection for the thousands of civilians at risk in the country.

“Residential neighbourhoods must be made safe as an urgent priority in order to allow people to go back to their homes and resume their normal lives.”

The Amnesty delegation has compiled information about multiple human rights abuses in the country since violence erupted in early December in the capital, Bangui.

A series of reciprocal slaughters started with an early morning attack by the Christian “anti-balaka militia” on 5 December. The anti-balaka forces apparently went door to door and killed approximately 60 Muslim men.  Following that attack, the de facto government forces, which are predominantly Muslim and known as the “ex-Seleka” retaliated on a larger scale against Christians, killing nearly 1,000 men over a two-day period and systematically looting homes. A small number of women and children were also killed.

 Both Christian and Muslim communities currently have a deep sense of anger and grievance, with many people showing Amnesty researchers photos and videos of killings on their mobile phones. The researchers warned that there is no prospect of the violent cycle ending until the militias are disarmed and civilians protected.

Despite the presence of French and African military forces meant to protect the civilian population, civilians are being wilfully killed on a daily basis said Amnesty, with at least 90 additional people killed since 8 December. Some victims have been shot; while others have been killed by angry mobs with machetes; others have even been stoned.

Amnesty said that any disarmament process must be accompanied by effective physical protection measures, particularly in crisis hotspots such as the PK5, Miskine and Combattant neighbourhoods. Amnesty has learned of revenge attacks on those who have been disarmed to date.

One of the most worrying aspects of the current situation is the blurring of lines between organised armed groups and civilian mobs, Amnesty said. In many cases it has been difficult to identify those responsible for the killings, but it is clear that many local civilians advocate violent acts of revenge, and some are participating in them. Amnesty believes that more international troops are urgently needed to ensure security in Bangui and elsewhere in the Central African Republic.

The African Union has promised to deploy up to 6,000 troops in a new peacekeeping force which is due to begin its work in the Central African Republic today. This deployment is urgently needed but the makeup and deployment plans for the troops have not yet been spelled out.

Amnesty is also calling on the UN to expedite plans to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights.

Christian Mukosa concluded:

“The international community has an important role to play in the Central African Republic, ensuring peacekeeping forces are deployed with all haste and are given the resources they need to prevent even greater bloodshed.”

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