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Central African Republic:New report finds violence of security forces now out of control

The security forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) are out of control and urgent action is needed by the national authorities and the international community to establish law and order, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control highlights the unprecedented scale of human rights violations committed across the country by Seleka, the coalition of armed groups, which launched an offensive against former President Francois Bozizé in early December 2012 and seized power in March of this year.

Godfrey Byaruhanga, Amnesty International’s CAR researcher, said:

“Seleka forces have attacked civilians across the country, executing and torturing people, indiscriminately shelling communities, raping women and forcefully conscripting children.

"The level of hopelessness and despair has reached a new low as a result of these persistent, large scale human rights violations, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity."

A senior government official told Amnesty during a recent visit that ministers who were not heads of Seleka factions struggle to prevent the serious human rights violations and that President Michel Djotodia could not issue orders to Seleka forces outside his faction.

In one incident documented by Amnesty researchers, Seleka forces stopped a taxi carrying around a dozen men. They found a bag of T-shirts with Bozizé’s picture printed on them and suspected them all of being his supporters. Several days later, the bodies of some of the men were found floating in a nearby river with their arms and legs tied and displaying signs of torture.

One woman told Amnesty she had been raped by three Seleka forces, in an attack that lasted several hours witnessed by her children. The soldiers bit and slapped her and a month later she still bore injuries from the vicious attack.

The Seleka coalition is reported to have recruited former criminals, many of them violent, such as highway robbers and poachers. It also reportedly includes Chadian and Sudanese fighters, who are believed to have committed a large number of human rights violations in the CAR.

It is estimated that there are as many as 3,500 child soldiers within Seleka’s ranks, some of them recruited from neighbouring Chad and Sudan. Amnesty is extremely concerned that many of these children are being used as bargaining chips by foreign commanders who are waiting to be paid by the CAR government for their role in the war.

There are also fears that some of the abuses appear to be targeted at religious groups, with predominantly Muslim members of Seleka targeting churches and people they believe to be Christians. Meanwhile, Christian militia around the country are targeting Muslims.

Exacerbated by the conflict, the humanitarian situation in CAR is calamitous, with thousands of people dependent on food and medical care provided by aid workers. They are also are being targeted. In one incident, Seleka forces broke into a children’s orphanage and opened fire, traumatising the children. They then stole all the vehicles, computers and food supplies. 

On 7 September, Seleka militia in Bossangoa severely beat and then summarily executed two workers of ACTED, a French humanitarian organisation.

Amnesty is calling on the CAR authorities to publically and unequivocally condemn all human rights violations committed by all security forces and armed groups; to bring perpetrators to justice and provide reparations for the victims.

The United Nations is currently deciding whether or not it will intervene to take over peacekeeping in the CAR. Amnesty calls upon the UN to support and train the peacekeeping forces to be able to establish law and order and to deploy human rights monitors to cover the whole country.

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