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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

25 September 2013

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting today held an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, after hearing a report based on the observations of a fact-finding mission to the country.

Delivering the report, Flavia Pansieri, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that human rights violations had occurred during the Séléka and the former Bozizé regimes.  During the conflict, both parties committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including summary executions and extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and looting of private and public properties.  The Séléka also engaged in sexual violence and in grave violations against children.  Along with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, the Assistant Secretary-General visited Bambari, one of the cities most affected by the crisis.  Insecurity prevailed throughout the country and State institutions had collapsed, with a consequent breakdown of law and order.

The Central African Republic, speaking as a concerned country, said that the Government’s efforts focused on ensuring the return of displaced persons, carrying out a reform of the judiciary, and protecting human rights.  Despite facing security, human and financial constraints, the country had made numerous efforts to restore peace.  Thousands of women, children and men had been abandoned to their fate and were awaiting urgent assistance.  The report was objective but the members of the mission had not been able to visit the whole country.  The Central African Republic was in need of urgent support from the international community.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegations expressed their deep concern about the findings of the report, particularly the extrajudicial killings, acts of sexual violence against women and children, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, and the displacement of large numbers of citizens, all of which may constitute war crimes.  All parties involved in the conflict were called upon to respect human rights and facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid to civilians.  The Central African Republic was commended for using existing mechanisms to ensure that national peace was restored.  Some speakers said they would support the appointment of an Independent Expert to the country. 

Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the Central African Republic were Gabon on behalf of African Group, European Union, France, Morocco on behalf of the Group of francophone countries, Republic of Congo, African Union, Cameroon, Austria, South Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Switzerland, Romania, Chad, Togo, Czech Republic, Sierra Leone, Luxembourg, Mexico, United States, Australia, Spain, Egypt, United Kingdom, Democratic Republic of Congo, New Zealand, Belgium, Nigeria, Portugal, Angola, Montenegro, China, and Sudan.  The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Human Rights Watch, Caritas, Amnesty International, Femmes Africa Solidarité, and International Federation of Human Rights Leagues.

The Human Rights Council will hold its next meeting at 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday, 25 September, when it will hear presentations of reports on Sri Lanka, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen and hold a general debate on technical assistance and capacity-building.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/24/59); and a corrigendum to the report of the High Commissioner (A/HRC/24/59/Corr.1).

Presentation of the Report on the Central African Republic

FLAVIA PANSIERI, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report built on a fact-finding mission to the Central African Republic in June and July 2013 to collect information on human rights violations in Bangui and other localities between 10 December 2012, when the Séléka offensive started, and 11 July 2013 when the mission left the country.  It described violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by the former Bozizé regime and the non-state armed group, the Séléka coalition, during the armed conflict that took place from December 2012 to 23 March 2013.  The report also reviewed allegations of human rights violations committed after the Séléka seized power on 24 March 2013 and thereby assumed civil and military responsibilities throughout the country. 

During the conflict, both parties committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including summary executions and extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and looting of private and public properties.  The Séléka also engaged in sexual violence and in grave violations against children.  Those acts constituted gross human rights violations and may amount to war crimes.  At the end of the armed conflict in March, gross violations of international human rights law such as summary executions, sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers, and the looting of properties, including hospitals, schools and churches, committed by the Séléka, had continued unabated, and engaged the responsibility of the State.

Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, visited the Central African Republic from 29 July to 2 August 2013.  Along with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Central African Republic, the Assistant Secretary-General visited Bambari, one of the cities most affected by the crisis, which the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights fact-finding mission had not been able to visit due to security constraints.  There, he was able to gauge the scale of human rights violations when interviewing victims and visiting places where grave violations were committed, including the site of a possible mass grave.  Insecurity prevailed throughout the country and the State institutions had collapsed, with a consequent breakdown of law and order.  This situation fostered criminality and engendered a climate of fear and impunity.  The high number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence committed in the Central African Republic was appalling.  Even as the report was presented the security situation remained volatile, with serious incidents taking place in recent weeks.  Those incidents raised serious concerns about the instrumentalisation of ethno-religious dimensions, which could lead to a further deterioration of the crisis. 

Statement by the Central African Republic as the Concerned Country

ARSENE SENDE, Minister in charge of Justice and Judicial reform of the Central African Republic, expressed the gratitude of the Central African Republic Government for the sustained attention given by the High Commissioner to the human rights situation of the country, which had led to the establishment of a fact-finding mission.  Government efforts focused on the reinstallation of displaced persons, judicial reform and protection of human rights.  Despite the security, human and financial constraints that it faced, the authorities had made numerous efforts to restore peace.  The Prime Minister of the transitional National Union Government reiterated in a letter to the High Commissioner his willingness to strengthen cooperation with her Office and invite all Special Procedures mandate holders.  A great deal of support was needed, as the country needed urgent action.  The survival of the nation was at stake.  Thousands of women, children and men had been abandoned to their fate.  Those people were awaiting assistance. 

Mr. Sendé commended the objectivity of the report but pointed out that the members of the mission were not able to visit the whole country.  In addition, the report was issued following a mission that was held more than two months ago and the situation had evolved positively since that time.  The allegations about the collapse of the judiciary had to be toned down.  It was true that the infrastructures of the judicial authorities had been destroyed.  But there was no room for impunity in the Central African Republic.  Some 20 persons, all members of the former Séléka militia, were tried and sentenced by the Bangui criminal court for looting.  A mobile criminal police squad had been established, as part of a strategy to strengthen the judiciary and to combat impunity.

Concerning the violations committed between December 2012 and March 2013, the report did not reflect the scale of violations attributable to the former authorities, Mr. Sendé said, adding that the former Presidential guards were responsible for the looting cases while they were fleeing the country.  Various forms of violence had been committed by the previous government forces.  The joint Commission of Inquiry would investigate all human rights violations committed both before and after the change.  Because of the difficulty to obtain testimonies by the victims, Mr. Sendé said he had called upon civil society organizations to provide the judiciary with information on the allegations of human rights violations.  A number of child soldiers had been identified and the United Nations Children’s Fund was taking care of their rehabilitation and reintegration.  On freedom of expression, the Government reiterated its strong commitment that no journalists would be imprisoned and that no one would be imprisoned for political reasons.  Mr. Sendé assured the Council that its recommendations were already being implemented.  However, the means required were not available.  The international community should urgently assist the Central African Republic to restore security.  Without security, there would be no respect for human rights and no justice.

Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the African Group remained deeply concerned by the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.  The African Group condemned all violations and appealed to the international community to help the population of the Central African Republic to rebuild institutions, uphold the rule of law, and build on the principles of the Libreville accords.

European Union thanked the Council and the Central African Republic for holding the interactive dialogue.  Gross human rights violations, including what the Deputy High Commissioner described as possible war crimes, appeared to be escalating in the Central African Republic.  It was the duty of the Council to prevent the crisis in the Central African Republic from becoming one of Africa’s forgotten conflicts.  The European Union called for the Council to establish an Independent Expert for the Central African Republic.

France said the report presented to the Council included accounts of human rights violations that were particularly worrying.  President Francois Hollande sounded the alarm on the topic yesterday and said the conflict must not become a forgotten crisis on the African continent.  Measures to rebuild institutions and move toward representative, free and fair elections, as well as to stabilise the security situation, must form the basis of efforts to resolve the crisis.  An Independent Expert for the Central African Republic should be appointed.

Morocco, speaking on behalf of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, remained concerned about the number and intensity of human rights violations that continued to occur, especially with regard to women and children.  The authorities had to restore peace and security, promote national reconciliation, protect human rights, and strengthen the rule of law.  The Central African Republic was encouraged to do its utmost to re-establish peace and security throughout the national territory.

Republic of Congo said that flagrant human rights violations had been reported in the Central African Republic and urgent action had to be taken.  All countries of the sub region should support the transitional Government to restore its authority over the entire territory of the Central African Republic.  The fundamental causes of instability in the Central African Republic were linked to the systematic exclusion of some parts of the population.

African Union said that the interactive dialogue was a part of a common effort to find a solution.  A specific mandate under Item 10 should be established to provide technical assistance to and improve the situation in the Central African Republic.  The African Union had been seized of the issue since the coup d’état.  Given the deterioration of the situation on the ground all stakeholders should join their forces to support the Central African Republic and find lasting solutions.

Cameroon said that, as a neighbouring country to the Central African Republic, it spared no effort to provide all the assistance it possibly could to its neighbour.  It had provided medical care, assistance and training to Central African Republic citizens arriving in Cameroon.  Cameroon called upon the international community to mobilize promptly in order to provide assistance to the Central African Republic.

Austria said it was concerned about the multiple human rights violations in the Central African Republic and was worried about summary executions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and incidents of torture by the Séléka and the former Bozizé Government.  The Central African Republic was in dire need of international attention and support, and security, peace and justice concerns should be addressed. 

South Sudan said that it was concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic and about the grave human rights violations committed by all parties.  The violations infringed on international law and international humanitarian law.  South Sudan called on the international community to work closely with the Central African Republic in order to carry out a national reconciliation process before a devastating civil conflict erupted in the country.  

Côte d’Ivoire said the report presented massive human rights violations, including against women and children, and it condemned those in the strongest terms.  Côte d’Ivoire supported the sending of an African peacekeeping force to the Central African Republic.  International and sub-regional bodies had to act to prevent such violations and the Government of the Central African Republic had to reinstitute order in the country and halt the violations.

Switzerland welcomed the readiness of the Central African Republic to hold today’s discussion and of the Council to host it.  The crisis in the Central African Republic had been unjustly ignored by the international community and it was important that the perpetrators of the crimes detailed in the report did not go unpunished.  What was the Deputy High Commissioner’s analysis of the capabilities of national judicial institutions in the Central African Republic to deal with those crimes?

Romania said that the situation in the Central African Republic was complex but priority actions should be taken such as the creation of a police force.  The human rights situation was serious and unacceptable.  Romania supported the efforts of the international community, the United Nations system and the Council to make sure that the human rights violations in the Central African Republic did not go unnoticed or unpunished.

Chad thanked the Fact-Finding Mission for its detailed report.  The human rights situation in the Central African Republic was very disturbing.  Violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law were the work of armed groups.  If the international community wanted the country to emerge from the situation, then it had to provide the Central African Republic with the necessary means to do so.

Togo was gravely concerned by ongoing violations of human rights outlined by the fact-finding mission.  Togo called upon the transitional Government to guarantee the security of the population and take all necessary measures to re-establish the authority of the State and restore peace and stability.  It appealed to the international community to provide support to national, sub-regional and regional initiatives aimed at helping the country emerge from the infernal cycle of crises.

Czech Republic said the lack of accountability for serious human rights abuses had unfortunately contributed to renewed cycles of violence and the breakdown of normative behaviour.  It shared concern over the gravity and intensity of human rights violations in the country and over the persistent and prevailing legal and security vacuum in which these crimes were committed.  The Czech Republic was also worried about the continuing militarization of the population and the proliferation of weapons.  

Sierra Leone said that despite the efforts of the international humanitarian community, the situation in the Central African Republic had not received enough attention from the international community.  Sierra Leone was concerned about the human rights abuses which continued to occur in the Central African Republic, particularly the extrajudicial killings and the attacks on civilians, including children.  Such attacks were unacceptable and should cease.  The perpetrators should be held accountable.  

Luxembourg said that the report demonstrated the extreme fragility of the situation in the Central African Republic, and expressed concern about the ongoing human rights violations and the deteriorating situation of women, children and other vulnerable groups.  Sexual violence against girls, in particular, had reached unacceptable levels.  The international community should take urgent measures to protect civilians and hold accountable all those responsible.  

Mexico said that the violation of human rights by armed groups in the Central African Republic was unacceptable and that efforts should be intensified to re-establish the rule of law in the country.  Mexico congratulated the Central African Republic on trying to resolve the situation and on the initiative it had taken to use existing United Nations mechanisms to strengthen areas in which it required support, such as documentation and carrying out an independent investigation.  

United States said it was gravely concerned by the continuing violations of international humanitarian law and reports of widespread human rights abuses by the Séléka rebel alliance.  The Government had to end the violence and bring perpetrators to justice.  The Libreville and N’Djamena Agreements had to be upheld.  The United States asked what the international community could do to support the African Union-led mission to the Central African Republic and to ensure credible elections in 2015.

Australia welcomed the efforts of transitional authorities to restore peace in the Central African Republic, such as by disarming the rebels.  However the human rights situation in Central African Republic remained critical.  Australia called on the Central African Republic to improve access for humanitarian organisations as an immediate priority.  The recent killing of aid workers in Bossangoa would only serve to discourage aid organisations from working in Central African Republic. 

Spain said it was grateful for the High Commissioner’s report and that it deplored the violence and rapes committed by both sides in the conflict in the Central African Republic, particular with regard to children’s rights.  Protection mechanisms had to be established to shield children at times of conflict.  What steps could be taken by Council Members to help the Central African Republic end human rights violations?

Egypt urged the transitional Government to take urgent measures to restore security, democratic governance and constitutional order throughout the country.  Egypt also called on the international community to intensify efforts towards helping the Government in its current endeavours to restore and maintain stability in the country by means of coordinated action to strengthen good governance, protection of human rights and national reconciliation.   

United Kingdom shared the concerns of many over abuses which included recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence, forced marriages, targeted killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions, which showed little sign of abating.  Insecurity had to be addressed alongside the humanitarian situation for there to be real progress towards lasting peace.  Progress on the political front was vital for the long-term stability of the Central African Republic.

Democratic Republic of Congo said the Central African Republic was currently going through a very difficult time characterized by grave violations of human rights and large scale displacement of the population both inside and outside the country.  The crisis could have even more dangerous repercussions for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region; a serious concern to a neighbour who hosted a great number of refugees from the country.

New Zealand said that the report’s findings were deeply troubling and expressed concern that the humanitarian situation affected the entire population of the Central African Republic, especially children.  The personal safety and security of civilians was continually threatened.  New Zealand acknowledged the particular challenges faced by displaced persons and the impact of the situation on refugees.  A coordinated response was necessary to strengthen security, good governance and reconciliation.

Belgium said it was concerned about the deterioration of the situation in the Central African Republic.  Access to humanitarian agents should be facilitated in conformity with international law.  Belgium was concerned about the serious violations of human rights against women and children, and demanded that such violations stop immediately and that perpetrators be brought to justice.  It also encouraged the Central African Republic authorities to fight against impunity.  

Nigeria said that it condemned violations of human rights in the Central African Republic, particularly the summary executions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and the torture and looting of private and public property, which both parties engaged in during the conflict.  The acts of sexual violence carried out by the Séléka may amount to war crimes and were a major concern. 

Portugal shared the extremely worrying concerns about the gravity of the violations of human rights committed during the conflict in the Central African Republic.  Portugal was particularly concerned about grave violations committed against children.  Portugal called for an urgent international response to the humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic and for the Council to remain focussed on it; and therefore supported the appointment of an Independent Expert to the country. 

Angola thanked the Council for undertaking the report and the delegation of Sudan for providing clarifications on it.  Angola condemned human rights violations committed on all sides in the conflict and called for them to end.  The authorities had to prepare for elections, and put in place follow-up mechanisms after the rebuilding of institutions, as stated in the Libreville Agreement.  The international community had to continue to support peace efforts.

Montenegro said it was particularly troubled by the intensity of the humanitarian crisis taking place in the Central African Republic.  Montenegro was concerned for wellbeing of the more than 200,000 internally displaced persons identified in High Commissioner’s report.  The transitional Government had to allow humanitarian aid organizations access to those and other victims of the conflict. 

China said the current security and humanitarian situation remained serious.  All parties concerned should effectively implement relevant resolutions of the Special Summit of the Economic Community of Central African States, so that the people of the Central African Republic could enjoy their human rights.  China stood ready to work with the international community to ensure the Central African Republic went back on track in peace and development.

Sudan welcomed the efforts made by the Government and the Fact-Finding Mission concerning human rights in the country and took note of the conclusions that mentioned challenges currently faced.  Sudan was ready to do everything it could to support the country and wished to cooperate to establish peace and security in the region.  It called upon the international community to grant any necessary assistance to the Central African Republic to that end.

Human Rights Watch said its research confirmed the deliberate killing of civilians, including women, children and the elderly, between March and June 2013.  The United Nations Security Council should expand the mandate of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic to allow monitoring, investigation and public reporting to the Council on abuses committed anywhere in the country.

Caritas said that it would like to see the Central African Republic back on the path of reconciliation and national peace and security.  Dialogue was the only way to re-establish lasting peace in the country.  Caritas called on the Central African Republic to facilitate access of humanitarian aid to affected populations and to ensure the punishment of perpetrators of crimes.

Amnesty International said it was deeply concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic, which had now reached a critical stage and was the worst in over two decades.  Civilians continued to suffer intolerable violations of their human rights, women and girls were raped, and children were recruited as soldiers.  A crisis coordination office should be set up in the country.  

Femmes Africa Solidarité said it was concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic.  The collapse of the State had created a legal and administrative vacuum leading to widespread internal displacement and leaving civilians to their own devices.  The international community should ensure the protection of civilians and human rights defenders. 

International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said that since the coup in the Central African Republic in 2013 the entire territory had been upended in violence, looting and chaos.  The Human Rights Council had to appoint an Independent Expert as soon as possible and his/her input could help bring perpetrators to justice.  The Independent Expert could also propose a road map back to peace for the Central African Republic.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC13/124E