HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES SPECIAL SESSION AFTER APPOINTING INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
20 January 2014
The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded its special session on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic after adopting a resolution in which it strongly condemned the continued and widespread violations of human rights by all parties. Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum of Côte d’Ivoire was appointed as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.
In the resolution, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemned the continued and widespread violations and abuses of human rights perpetrated by all actors, and stressed that the perpetrators of such violations and abuses should be held accountable and brought to justice. The Council demanded an immediate halt to all human rights violations and abuses by all parties, and urged all parties in the Central African Republic to protect all civilians, in particular women and children from sexual violence. The Council also emphasized the need for all parties to facilitate humanitarian access for the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to all persons in need of assistance.
The resolution emphasized the urgency of appointing an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, requested the immediate operationalization of the mandate, and called upon all parties to cooperate fully with the Independent Expert and on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Expert with the necessary financial and human resources.
Baudelaire Ndong Ella, President of the Human Rights Council, said that he had carried out a number of consultations and thanked the members of the Advisory Group and then proceeded to appoint Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum (Côte d’Ivoire) as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.
In the general debate, speakers expressed their concern over grave and mass violations of human rights in the Central African Republic, which included summary executions, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence and recruitment of children into armed forces. Speakers also praised efforts by the African Union, the Economic Community for Central African States, and in particular the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic and the French troops on the ground.
Speaking during the debate were representatives of Angola, Australia, Norway, Canada, Hungary, Slovakia, Holy See, Slovenia, Burundi, Luxembourg, Croatia, Sudan, Latvia, Thailand, Paraguay, Chad, Poland, Mauritania, Israel, Libya, Niger, Djibouti, Liechtenstein, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Switzerland, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Non-governmental organizations that took the floor were: Civicus, Save the Children International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Caritas International, also on behalf of the Dominicans for Justice and Peace – Order of Preachers, International Catholic Child Bureau and Franciscans International, Organization for Communication in Africa and Promotion of Economic International Cooperation – OCAPROCE Internationale, World Evangelical Alliance, United Nations Watch, Reporters without Borders International, Amnesty International, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the International Action for Peace and Development in the Great Lakes Region, which spoke also on behalf of the International Committee for Respect and Application of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Ethiopia presented the resolution on behalf of the African Union and 99 co-sponsors. Italy on behalf of the European Union also took the floor.
The next regular session of the Human Rights Council will be held from 3 to 28 March 2014.
This was the twentieth special session of the Human Rights Council. Documentation relating to the Special Session is available on the Human Rights Council webpage.
Angola said that the situation gripping the Central African Republic was affecting the entire region, and violence, unless it was rapidly tackled, might spread across the entire sub-region of Great Lakes. Angola urged the African Union and other partners to strengthen their support to the Central African Republic, and thanked the Member States which were already contributing to the peacekeeping mission. Peace and stability were key prerequisites for the people in the Central African Republic to enjoy their human rights.
Australia stated that civilians in the Central African Republic, particularly women and children, needed protection. The prevailing impunity for such crimes was unacceptable, and Australia urged the National Transitional Council to ensure that those responsible were held to account, without distinction as to religious or political affiliation. Australia called on the transitional authorities to improve access needed by humanitarian organizations.
Norway said that the reports of widespread lawlessness and gross human rights violations painted a grim picture. The Human Rights Council’s special session coincided with a high-level meeting in Brussels on the humanitarian situation, and it was essential that the international community now addressed the precarious situation in the country in a holistic manner and from various angles.
Canada said the Human Rights Council had a duty to act and support the Central African Republic in protecting its civilians, thus preparing the ground for the resolution of the crisis. Canada was deeply concerned about the insecurity and firmly condemned the acts of violence endured by inhabitants of the Central African Republic, in particular women and children. Canada was particularly concerned about reports of people being targeted because of their religion. Canada called for free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all those who needed it.
Hungary voiced deep concern over the precarious human rights situation in the Central African Republic, which was extremely concerning and needed an appropriate remedy from the international community, whose duty it was to assist the people of the Central African Republic. Hungary welcomed the presence of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic and the French army contingent who were there to protect the population and ensure a speedy electoral process.
Slovakia said it was particularly alarmed by large-scale human rights abuses and violations against civilians in the Central African Republic such as summary executions, acts of torture, ill-treatment and mutilation, sexual violence and looting. Slovakia called on all parties to refrain from the deplorable practice of recruiting and using children in armed groups. Fighting the culture of impunity was a prerequisite to prevent the further deterioration of human rights.
Holy See observed that the social and political situation in the Central African Republic was deteriorating rapidly and had resulted in utter disrespect for the rights to life and dignity of countless children, women and men. Direct testimonies of Catholic bishops from the country confirmed the dire conditions across the country. The Holy See stressed that an objective analysis of the situation was urgent, as placing the blame on religion for the ongoing conflict deflected the attention and energy of the international community from dealing with the true roots of the problem.
Slovenia called on all the parties to immediately cease violations of human rights and recalled the responsibility of the authorities to protect the civilian population, especially the most vulnerable groups. All human rights violations and abuses as well as violations of the international humanitarian law had to be investigated and perpetrators had to be brought to justice. Slovenia supported all the initiatives to mitigate the situation in the country and the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry.
Burundi welcomed the strong mobilization of the Member States and observers to help the Central African Republic expeditiously. Burundi appealed to the international community to expand its support to the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic, in order to enable it to exercise its mandate more effectively. Burundi said that it had made available some 800 men to the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic.
Luxembourg referred to the humanitarian meeting taking place in Brussels today on the situation in the Central African Republic. Luxembourg strongly condemned all attacks on civilians because of ethnicity or religion, as well as all other atrocities, including the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups. Those responsible for human rights violations must be identified and brought to task for their acts. Luxembourg hoped that the Independent Expert would be able to make specific proposals on the situation without delay.
Croatia said it was extremely worried about the impact of the crisis on women and children, and reports of sexual violence against women and girls committed by armed groups with absolute impunity. It was also worried about the reports of sectarian violence against and between Muslim and Christian civilians that led to large-scale killings in Bangui on 5 and 6 December last year. The situation could easily explode into further gross human rights violations and therefore urgent action was justified.
Sudan said it was gravely concerned about the situation in its sister country of the Central African Republic. Sudan welcomed the opportunity to express its unlimited support to the people of the Central African Republic and called on all parties to the conflict to listen to the voice of reason and re-establish peace and security without delay. Everyone knew the high cost of healing, capacity building and restructuring, and Sudan called on donor States especially to provide generous support in order to restore peace and stability.
Latvia commended the African Group, which had taken the lead in convening the special session of the Human Rights Council. Latvia thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the update and was alarmed by the report of killings of civilians. Perpetrators of various human rights violations had to be held accountable. Latvia asked all parties to ease the access of humanitarian aid to those affected.
Thailand strongly condemned the ongoing violence and killings in Bangui and elsewhere, and reiterated its call that violence in all its forms had to end. In that context, Thailand welcomed the ceasefire agreed upon in the Central African Republic. Thailand commended the African Union and the Economic Community for Central African States for taking the lead role in addressing the situation in their region. Accountability had to be upheld and all perpetrators brought to justice.
Paraguay voiced its supreme concern over the breakdown of law and order in the Central African Republic. The testimonies collected by the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights had shown the scope and seriousness of the crimes committed. Humanitarian efforts were urgently needed to help more than 900,000 internally displaced persons, and the Central African Republic had to be strongly supported until its Government was in a position to provide for its citizens.
Chad said since 1994 it had spared no effort in providing technical, material and financial support to its neighbour, the Central African Republic, in order to establish peace and security on its borders. Additionally Chad had hosted tens of thousands of Central Africans for some 10 years peacefully. Now the image of Chad’s national army was being tarnished through allegations of misconduct – the accusations were crude and trumped up and Chad defied anybody to find proof of them. Chadian soldiers were fulfilling their peacekeeping mandate with care and professionalism.
Poland said the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Central African Republic was established by the Council in September 2013 but since then the situation had deteriorated dramatically. A series of violent clashes, fuelled by sectarian tensions, had caused hundreds of casualties and forced nearly a million people to leave their homes, turning them into internally displaced persons. Poland called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and called on Central African Republic authorities to stop human rights violations and mitigate inter-religious tensions.
Mauritania spoke about the alarming situation of massive human rights violations in the Central African Republic, as outlined by the High Commissioner in her report. Mauritania condemned the grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law. It expressed its appreciation to the French soldiers stationed on the ground and called for the deployment of United Nations peacekeeping soldiers under African supervision.
Israel stressed that the Human Rights Council had an obligation towards the victims and it was its responsibility to support all measures aimed at ending grave and urgent violations, including the gross abuses perpetrated against the civilian population of the Central African Republic. Israel believed that the path to democratic elections in 2015, as well as full integration with the African region in order to promote development, could only be achieved within the context of peace and security in the country.
Libya fully supported the people of the Central African Republic and condemned all the crimes perpetrated against the civilian population. Libya believed that efforts could be strengthened in a number of areas – there should be no impunity for violators of human rights, and the parties were urged to start a dialogue as soon as possible. The various humanitarian needs of the affected population should to be urgently addressed.
Niger deplored the alarming deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation, which was a consequence of the political crisis, which was manifesting itself through the fighting between former Seleka rebels and anti-Balaka militia groups. Niger condemned the violence against civilians, often perpetrated on religious grounds. Niger noted that hundreds of migrant workers had to flee the Central African Republic, where they had established their livelihoods.
Djibouti expressed its serious concern about the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, in particular severe violence, plundering and targeted attacks on categories of the population on account of their beliefs. The situation had placed more than 200,000 people in a serious food shortage situation. Djibouti called upon the international community to establish a robust programme of economic assistance that would focus on developmental support and rebuilding infrastructure.
Liechtenstein said the situation in the Central African Republic warranted an urgent and serious response by the Human Rights Council. The advisor of the Secretary-General had warned of the possibility of genocide and the reports from the ground were shocking indeed. Liechtenstein hoped that the alleged perpetrators – particularly those with the highest levels of responsibility – would be held accountable. In the resolution adopted today the Council must make it clear that all humanitarian actors had to be given full access to people who needed aid.
Democratic Republic of the Congo said it was moved and horrified to hear the descriptions by speakers today of the human rights and humanitarian situation in its brotherly country the Central African Republic. The Democratic Republic of the Congo understood and knew their situation, and knew how the conflict could have repercussions in neighbouring countries. It called for ongoing support to the State and Government of the Central African Republic to help it establish peace and security to enable the population to enjoy their basic rights.
United Nations Children’s Fund said that in recent weeks, deeply disturbing developments had been observed in the Central African Republic, with children beheaded, mutilated, shot and burned to death only because they belonged to a particular group or community. Over 6,000 children were believed to be associated with armed groups, but the previous week some 23 children combatants had been released. The need for protection and assistance was immense, but the humanitarian response had been constrained by a near total absence of law and order.
Switzerland was very concerned about the mass violations of human rights which had taken place between Muslim and Christian groups since the events of 24 March 2013. Mass displacements of civilian populations also remained a source of major concern. Switzerland called on the transitional authorities to put an immediate end throughout the entire territory to acts of violence targeting civilian populations. It was crucial that all measures were taken to prevent impunity and ensure that victims of human rights violations had access to justice.
Civicus said that since December 2013, more than 1,000 civilians had been killed and thousands more had been displaced in the Central African Republic. It called on the international community to increase its efforts to protect civilians and ensure stability by bolstering peacemaking efforts in the Central African Republic.
Save the Children stated that every day, children were killed, injured, sexually abused and forcibly displaced in the Central African Republic. Of the 2.3 million children in the country, more than a million were in dire need of medical assistance. Save the Children believed that it was paramount that the mandate of the Independent Expert include a strong focus on ending violations against children’s rights.
Human Rights Watch said that since April 2013, the burning of villages and summary executions by the ex-Seleka forces had been recorded. The forces of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic and the French troops had brought a certain level of protection for civilians, but they lacked a sufficient capacity to end the humanitarian catastrophe.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said since the coup of 24 March 2013 by members of the Seleke population, the worse crimes had taken place, over 100,000 people had been killed and over 1 million people had been displaced so far. The Council was asked to adopt a resolution supporting the mandate of the Independent Expert and in support of the Commission of Inquiry mandated by the Secretary-General.
Caritas International, in a joint statement, said even if over the last few days the Central African Republic had seemed to return to normality, the situation in the country was still critical. A priority was ensuring the safe return of hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Priority must be granted to helping the thousands of vulnerable children who had been separated from their parents and could be subject to trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
OCAPROCE Internationale said it was deeply concerned about the scale of human rights and international humanitarian violations in the Central African Republic. It firmly condemned sexual violence perpetrated against women and children and the presence of religious extremists in the Central African Republic from other countries. The massacres in the Central African Republic represented crimes against humanity.
World Evangelical Alliance said the political forces in favour of peace must be brought together to enable the Central African Republic to become a pluralistic nation once again. A strong international force was required, while measures were needed to restore trust between communities that had been pitted against each other. Churches could play an active role in the reconciliation process. There was no reason why the Central African Republic should become a theatre of chronic instability.
United Nations Watch stressed that it had be ensured that the authorities and international armed forces present in the Central African Republic took immediate action to end the inter-communal violence. United Nations Watch recalled a statement of a director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that a genocide in the Central African Republic might be avoided by a massive scaling up in the international response to the crisis.
Reporters without Borders International said that currently the media was incapable of informing the public properly in the Central African Republic. The process of election of the new Head of State could open the road to a dialogue among the different groups. The role of journalists in that process was considerable because it was their calling to promote dialogue. Journalists ought to be protected in their work, research, collection and dissemination of information.
Amnesty International said that all parties to the conflict, including ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, had committed serious violations and abuses. Some 4,000 African troops and 1,600 French troops had not been able to stop the killings. The International Support Mission to the Central African Republic should be provided with sufficient resources, including additional personnel and materials. A coordination mechanism for the various international and national human rights and inquiry mechanisms should be established.
Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme condemned the disproportionate use of force against civil populations and was concerned about the capacity of the current political actors to take the country out of the ongoing human tragedy. Reconciliation in the Central African Republic would be possible only on the ground of equitable justice.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation said that for the past 10 years they had travelled through the Central African Republic teaching peaceful reconciliation. Africa had a tradition of dialogue which they had supported and built on. The organization now called on people trained in oral reconciliation to work to bring about an end to the violence, especially working with the Muslim and Christian religious leaders to promote peaceful dialogue and restorative justice.
Action international pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grands Lacs, in a joint statement, said since the assassination of the first President of the Central African Republic in 1958, the history of the country had been a succession of political disasters and humanitarian crisis, mainly due to neo-colonial interference and meddling from other countries. The current crisis was rooted in that terrible past. The organization welcomed the efforts of the African Union that sought to take into account the multi-faceted aspects of the crisis, all of which must be addressed on the path to peace.
Action on Resolution
In a resolution (A/HRC/S20/L-21) on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and technical assistance in the area of human rights, adopted without a vote, the Council strongly condemned the continued and widespread violations and abuses of human rights perpetrated by all actors, and stressed that the perpetrators of such violations and abuses should be held accountable and brought to justice. The Council demanded an immediate halt to all human rights violations and abuses by all parties, and urged all parties in the Central African Republic to protect all civilians, in particular women and children from sexual violence. The Council also emphasized the need for all parties to facilitate humanitarian access for the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to all persons in need of assistance. The Council requested the support of the international community to meet the urgent financial, humanitarian and technical needs of the national authorities of the Central African Republic. The Council emphasized the urgency of appointing an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, requested the immediate operationalization of the mandate, and called upon all parties to cooperate fully with the Independent Expert, and on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Expert with the necessary financial and human resources.
Ethiopia, introducing draft resolution (A/HRC/S20/L-21) on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and technical assistance in the area of human rights on behalf of the African Group and 99 co-sponsors, said the draft resolution condemned all violations of human rights by all parties to the conflict and demanded an immediate halt to those heinous acts. It also called for all parties to observe international humanitarian law and highlighted that all perpetrators of human rights violations must be held accountable. It urged all parties to allow immediate humanitarian access. The draft emphasized the urgency of appointing an Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic and requested immediate operationalization of the mandate. Ethiopia hoped that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.
Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked the African Group and the Central African Republic for their efforts in convening today’s special session. The European Union supported the draft resolution and its 28 Member States had co-sponsored the text. Italy then shared an update from the meeting of Foreign Ministers at the European Union Council of Foreign Affairs in Brussels today. The European Union Council, which welcomed the convening of this special session today, had expressed its support for the idea of a European military operation in the Central African Republic.
BAUDELAIRE NDONG ELLA, President of the Human Rights Council, said that he had carried out a number of consultations and thanked the members of the Advisory Group and then proceeded to appoint Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum (Côte d’Ivoire) as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. The President then declared the twentieth special session of the Human Rights Council closed.
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