4 July 2018
The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held an interactive dialogue with Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.
The Independent Expert spoke about her June visit to Bangui and Bangassou as well as her April visit to Libreville in Gabon. She noted that since the beginning of the year, there had been a deterioration of the political as well as the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, reflected also in the growing number of attacks against humanitarian actors. The State had deployed security forces in certain areas to protect civilians, but armed groups continued with attacks. The Government was determined to draft a transnational justice strategy, including judicial and non-judicial mechanisms. The situation in the Central African Republic required a redoubling of efforts to deal with numerous challenges remaining.
The Central African Republic, speaking as the concerned country, commended all initiatives aimed at restoring peace and order in the country. The ongoing crisis had undermined that authority of the State. Belligerent armed groups posed serious challenges to the economic stability of the Central African Republic. Some 600,000 persons had been displaced so far. The Central African Republic called on the international community to take energetic efforts to help restore peace and stability.
In the ensuing discussion, delegations expressed concern over intermittent waves of violence and sectarian violence, perpetrated by the armed groups. The Government was urged to operationalize the Special Criminal Court and launch the Truth and Justice Commission, as impunity and lack of justice were the greatest impediments to reconciliation. The protracted conflict required efforts of all United Nations mechanisms and the African Union to broker a peace deal. An appeal was launched to the international community to provide greater support.
Speaking during the discussion were: European Union, Togo on behalf of African Group, Senegal, France, Australia, Sudan, Netherlands, Botswana, New Zealand, China, Côte d'Ivoire, United Kingdom, Egypt, and Gabon.
The following civil society organizations also spoke: World Evangelical Alliance, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Espace Afrique International, International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, Catholic International Education Office, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The Council will next hear an oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, on the human rights situation of the Rohingya people and other minorities in Myanmar, followed by an interactive dialogue.
Presentation by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic
MARIE-THÉRÈSE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said that her last visit to Bangui and Bangassou took place in June where she met with the Prime Minister, members of the Government, parliament, civil society, United Nations, victims and internally displaced persons. In April, she had visited Libreville in Gabon in order to speak with the Regional Office of the United Nations for Central Africa. The political situation in the Central African Republic had deteriorated since the beginning of the year, gravely affecting the population. She also noted the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and condemned the growing number of attacks against humanitarian actors. The State had deployed security forces in certain areas to protect civilians, but armed groups continued attacks, including that against priest Firmin Gbagoua. The situation in Bambari had deteriorated. There were numerous hate speech incidents.
A positive development was that the Government, assisted by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, had adopted the national plan for the prevention of violence. The Government was determined to develop a transnational justice strategy, including judicial and non-judicial mechanisms. This deserved the support of the international community and the Bangui Forum was a cornerstone of such efforts. The International Criminal Court continued its investigations and the Special Criminal Court had been established. A committee was set up to establish a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation, but it was taking too long. Decision-making processes had to include women and youth. Regional efforts were needed for conflict resolution. The situation in the Central African Republic required the redoubling of efforts to deal with numerous challenges that the Central African Republic faced.
Statement by the Concerned Country
Central African Republic, speaking as the concerned country, commended all iniatives aimed at restoring peace and order in the country. The ongoing crisis had undermined the authority of the State. Belligerent armed groups posed serious challenges to the economic stability of the Central African Republic. Some 600,000 persons had been displaced so far. The Central African Republic called on the international community to take energetic efforts to help restore peace and stability. The Government remained committed to the United Nations Charter and the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation. Armed groups operating in the country must lay down their weapons without delay and must participate fully in demobilisation and reconciliation efforts. Only with the help of the international community could order be restored in the Central African Republic.
European Union thanked the Independent Expert for her work. Intermitted waves of violence had killed many civilians in the Central African Republic. The European Union condemned all attacks, including against humanitarian workers. Hate speech and incitement of violence seemed to persist. The European Union asked that the Government bring those responsible to account. Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern given the scale and persistence of massive violations of human rights by armed groups against civilians and humanitarian workers. The African Group urged Central Africans to work hand in hand and to redefine how they worked together again. It launched an urgent appeal to the international community to provide greater support to the Central African Republic. Senegal said that in the opinion of the Independent Expert, the population was beginning to lose trust. Therefore, it was important for the international community to step up its assistance and help the implementation of the Bangui Agreement. It was also important to marginalise the armed groups which were destibiailising the population.
France was concerned about the persistence of violence perpetrated by armed groups against humanitarian workers in the Central African Republic. It called on the armed groups to cease their destabilizing activities. The roadmap adopted in Libreville in July 2017 on disarming these groups had to be respected and implemented. France urged the operationalization of the Special Criminal Court and the launching the Truth and Justice Commission. Australia encouraged the establishment of a women’s leadership network, to involve women in all peace initiatives. It was concerned about the significant increase in acts of sexual violence towards women and girls. It noted that sectarian violence continued, as religiously affiliated armed groups refused to join the reconciliation process. Sudan welcomed the efforts made to improve the human rights situation in the country. It called on all parties to take part in the dialogue, including the armed groups and other stakeholders. Sudan expressed readiness to provide all assistance to the Central African Republic, and called on the international community to enhance efforts with a view to restoring peace in the country.
Netherlands was concerned about the poor security situation and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Bangui. The increase of sectarian violence, hate speech, and attacks against civilians was worrisome. What mechanisms could the international community undertake to reduce the hate speech that was polarizing the population. Botswana said that recent reports of increased activities of the armed forces were a serious concern. The protracted conflict required all United Nations mechanisms together with the African Union to broker a peace deal. New Zealand noted that sporadic surges of violence had forced over half a million refugees to remain in neighbouring countries. The fight against impunity was essential to the resolution of the crisis and the creation of the Special Criminal Court was welcomed.
China welcomed the efforts of the Government to conduct demobilization and armed groups were called upon to cease their violence. China would continue to provide aid to reduce the effects of the humanitarian crisis. Côte d'Ivoire welcomed the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic. However, major challenges remained in the areas of security, national reconciliation and durable peace. Côte d’Ivoire urged the Government to improve the security situation and disarm the armed groups. United Kingdom was alarmed by the recent increase in violence which had led to a wave of reprisals, including attacks by armed groups on places of worship. The progress made by the Special Criminal Court was welcomed and the fight against impunity remained essential.
Egypt commended the cooperation between the Independent Expert and the Central African Republic in order to promote and respect human rights. Egypt encouraged the Government to pursue its efforts, and to coordinate them in order to achieve peace and transitional justice. It encouraged the international community to provide technical assistance. Gabon congratulated the Independent Expert on her role. It paid tribute to the efforts of the authorities to bring justice, reconciliation and peace to the country. This question was also a concern in Gabon. It thanked the international community for its efforts standing alongside the Central African Republic.
World Evangelical Alliance, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis International Confederation of Catholic Charities said despite the efforts to establish lasting peace, the arrival of new mercenaries had been noticed. This made it difficult to establish safety in the country. Decisive actions were needed so as to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice. Impunity never brought peace. Mining natural resources was at the heart of this conflict. Christian Solidarity Worldwide remained deeply concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic. The armed groups contributed to instability, targeted civilians and infrastructure, and contributed to massive displacement. It urged the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators were held to account. There could be no lasting peace while impunity remained rampant. Espace Afrique International noted and supported the many efforts made by the international community to help the Central African Republic. However, it noted the general insecurities endangering the population, and the increase in clashes and sexual violence. Had the Independent Expert been able to discuss these allegations with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic on the ground?
International Federation of ACAT Action By Christians for the Abolition of Torture said the death penalty still existed in the Central African Republic, and it called on the Government to abolish it. The Federation was troubled by the persisting insecurity in the country due to armed groups, with acts including torture and enforced disappearances. Whilst there was progress, impunity remained. Catholic International Education Office voiced concern over the recent escalation in the armed conflict in the Central African Republic. Catholic schools were participating in the reconciliation process. Such schools could engage diverse communities and highlight the right to education to all children, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic
MARIE-THÉRÈSE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, highlighted the absence of women in the peace process. The African Union and the Central African Republic must bring women to the negotiating table. Women could help build bridges between all parties. Initiatives were in place to implement United Nations resolutions and the international community must assist the Government in ensuring the engagement of civil society. Transitional justice was paramount and the United Nations must support such mechanisms. If proper funding was secured for transitional justice mechanisms, true progress could be made towards reducing violence. The lack of resources would result in missed opportunities. Disarmament, demobilisation and reconciliation efforts were being deployed with the assistance of relevant stakeholders. The Independent Expert had discussed sexual abuses committed by international forces with commanding officers. Several cases had been brought to the attention of States so perpetrators could be brought to justice.
International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said the security situation was deteriorating in the Central African Republic and human rights violations were common. Recent attacks on a church were emblematic of the state of violence characterising the county. Reconciliation must be based on truth and justice. United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation said barbarism had vanquished freedom in the Central African Republic. The Agency condemned the human rights violations and asserted that impunity would only lead to increased violence. The international community must ensure that human rights violators were brought to justice. International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) remained concerned about the human rights situation and reports of gender-based violence. Hate speech had sparked increased violence and was being used to mislead the population. Impunity persisted and remedy mechanisms were too slow.
MARIE-THÉRÈSE KEITA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said there was a need to find lasting resources to ensure that judicial staff had the resources needed to carry out their duties and fight impunity. There must be a law on victim assistance, otherwise it would not be possible to foster cooperation between victims and judicial bodies. Special tribunals faced too much pressure and were in need of assistance. Plans must be implemented to mitigate hate speech without depriving people of their right to freedom of expression. Partners in the region had supported stability efforts. However, a comprehensive sub-regional strategy was needed to better promote and protect human rights in the Central African Republic. Increased South-South cooperation could enhance all other forms of cooperation. Monitoring efforts must be stepped up to identify perpetrators of human rights violations and the international community must provide assistance to children affected by conflict. Poverty and discrimination were the root causes of the crisis and development efforts must be prioritised.
For use of the information media; not an official record