All Parties to Conflict in CAR Violate Civilians’ Human Rights, Experts Say

GENEVA — Human rights experts accuse all parties to the conflict in the Central African Republic of perpetrating serious human rights abuses and violations against the civilian population.

The experts, who held a high-level dialogue at the United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday to assess developments in the CAR, warned that the ongoing violence and instability in the country have adversely affected the human rights of civilians and kept the country mired in poverty.

Nada Al-Nashif, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, blamed armed groups for “51% of the abuses and state actors for the remaining 49% of violations.”

She said between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, 2,100 abuses and violations were reported by U.N. peacekeeping forces, known as MINUSCA, affecting 4,676 victims.

Among the victims, she said, were hundreds of women and girls who were “subjected to conflict-related sexual violence.”

“These violations were mainly attributable to armed groups, but also to the military and other security personnel,” she said, adding that the warring parties have committed other serious violations, as well, such as extrajudicial executions, trafficking, forced recruitment and use, and forced marriage.

She said children also are victims of grave human rights violations, “with the recruitment and use of children and abduction and sexual violence being the most frequent. …Armed groups remain the main perpetrators in this regard.”

Al-Nashif pointed out the government has taken some steps to improve the country’s deplorable human rights situation. However, she stressed that was only a first step, saying strengthened measures are urgently needed to eliminate all forms of exploitation and abuse.

Responding to the deputy high commissioner’s remarks, Arnaud Djoubaye Abazene, CAR’s minister of state for justice, explained that his country’s years of experience with recurrent conflict and turbulence have led to “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law of which women and girls are the main victims.”

He said President Faustin-Archange Touadera was intent on rectifying the situation, noting that the president has placed “the promotion and protection of human rights at the epicenter of his public policy,” with particular emphasis on the rights of women and girls.

He listed and recounted in detail the many new and revised constitutional laws and other legal remedies that have been implemented by his government related to gender-based violence. Some, he said, are aimed at ending discrimination, strengthening the rights of women, protecting women and children from abuse, and seeking justice for crimes against them.

“During the criminal sessions of the Bangui Court of Appeal in 2020 and 2023, several criminal cases of rape were tried, and the perpetrators and accomplices found guilty were severely punished,” he said, adding that “several cases are currently being investigated at the level of the courts.”

Joanne Adamson, deputy special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations for MINUSCA, praised the government for “the significant progress it has made on human rights,” including the adoption of a national human rights policy, the extension of a plan of action to combat conflict-related sexual violence, and the government’s commitment to combat against impunity for sexual violence linked to conflict.

“However, despite these efforts and the improvements in certain areas, the security situation remains volatile throughout the country and continues to bring challenges in the context of human rights, particularly in remote areas where armed groups remain active,” she said.

“Conflict-related sexual violence remains a reality because of the ongoing gender inequalities and harmful traditional practices,” and that often causes abused women to remain silent.

Adamson said many victims do not seek justice because they “fear reprisals, are ashamed or fear stigmatization and do not speak out.”

She said allowing women to participate more fully in political and public life would help to “consolidate peace, reconciliation and development.”

Deputy High Commissioner Al-Nashif noted that the Central African Republic ranks 188th out of 191 countries in terms of gender equality.

“Gender-based discrimination and exclusion from public and political life remain deeply entrenched,” she said.

“It is regrettable that the revised Electoral Code, adopted by the National Assembly in January 2024, did not include a provision on the implementation of a 35% quota for women in line with the Gender Parity Law of 2016.”

Adamson called on the government to “ensure the political participation of women in all decision-making bodies through effective legal frameworks and policies.”

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