Central African Republic: efforts to fight impunity taking shape

​Victims of the 2003-2015 conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) can be counted in tens of thousands. Women, children and men in that country have only one plea: that for a sustainable peace.

In a country that has been held hostage by numerous armed groups and plagued by violence, there is only one way to achieve peace - through fighting impunity. It is heartening to see a concerted effort taking shape led by the national authorities and supported by CAR’s neighbours, the African Union, the United Nations and the international community.

This statement was made by Scott Campbell of the UN Human Rights Office at a panel discussion “Violence and impunity in CAR,” organised on the margins of the UN Human Rights Council. Campbell heads the Section at the UN Human Rights Office that was instrumental in mapping 13 years of human rights violations in the CAR in a report launched end of May this year. He also stressed that “reconciliation cannot be achieved at the price of impunity.”

“My country is a victim of armed bands that pilfer and rape with impunity, condemning the country to permanent instability,” said Leopold Ismael Samba, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the UN in Geneva. The UN mapping report, he pointed out, “reveals the depth of the suffering of the people in the Central African Republic and offers us the chance to change the situation.”

Samba added that “horror and terror have settled in the country,” with the armed groups - currently in control of 14 out of the 16 administrative districts in CAR - calling for amnesty with complete disregard for the victims of the serious human rights violations that took place and continue to take place as we speak.

The mapping report, which was mandated by the UN Security Council, documents in detail 620 incidents including multiple accounts of gang rapes of women and girls as young as five; deaths following severe torture or ill-treatment in detention centres; serious violence against people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or perceived support for armed groups; and the recruitment of thousands of children by armed groups.

Taking ownership of the report’s recommendations, which set out a strategy to fight pervasive impunity in the country, CAR’s leadership is using the report as an important tool for fighting impunity and restoring peace, and galvanizing national, regional and international efforts to support the implementation of its manifold recommendations.

Some of these recommendations refer to the recently established Special Criminal Court for CAR and panellists recognised important progress made with the recent arrival in Bangui of a special prosecutor and two international judges. They urged for an accelerated pace in ensuring the court is fully functioning and added it should have the capacity to focus on the gender dimension of the crimes committed, given the disproportionate number of documented human rights violations against women and girls.

Jean-Marie Ehouzou, the Permanent Observer with the Permanent Delegation of the African Union to the UN in Geneva, pointed out that transitional justice can tackle rampant impunity and added its success hinges on the political will of the actors involved as well as adequate resources.

He reiterated the longstanding recommendations on transitional justice made by the UN Independent Expert on the human rights situation in CAR and called upon the international community to assist that country and its citizens in ensuring accountability.

Ehouzou also stressed that parties involved in the transitional process should follow the example of the winners of the latest Sergio Vieira de Mello Award: Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama and Pastor Nicolas Guérékoyaméné-Gbangou, the three CAR religious leaders who created the Interfaith Peace Platform.

28 June 2017
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