United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today urged action to stop the lawlessness and grave violations to civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR) including torture, recruitment of children by armed forces, rape and kidnappings.
“The Secretary-General is greatly concerned by the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the continued grave violations of human rights across the country,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said. “He emphasizes that perpetrators must be held individually accountable for their actions,” he added.
Since the Séléka rebel coalition launched an offensive in December, 1.2 million people have been cut off from essential services and human rights violations have been widespread. At least 4.1 million people, almost half of whom are children, have been directly affected by the crisis and more than 37,000 people have fled the country in the past four months due to the violence.
Mr. Ban is particularly concerned by reports of clashes between the Séléka movement and the population in Bangui, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, his spokesman said. “He strongly condemns Séléka’s acts of violence against the civilian population. He urges the de facto authorities to restore law and order throughout the country and to ensure the protection of civilians,” he added.
Welcoming regional efforts to restore peace in the CAR, the Secretary-General called on the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union (AU) to take urgent measures to address the gravity of the security situation with the assistance of the international community.
Ms. Pillay, in a separate statement, also expressed alarm over the violence and lawlessness. “The current state of lawlessness, verging on anarchy, must not be allowed to continue,” she said.
“The rule of law must be restored and perpetrators of abuses held accountable. Those carrying out serious crimes, and especially their leaders, should bear in mind that they may be held individually criminally responsible.”
Over the weekend, more than 20 people were killed in Bangui alone, and the local Red Cross reported that at least 119 people have been killed since the fall of the former government on 24 March.
“We have also received reports of 19 cases of sexual violence against women and girls in the town of Berberati as well as three in Bangui,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that this figure is most likely lower than the actual number of victims due to the absence of a functioning police force and justice system, as well as victims’ reluctance to report crimes due to fear of harassment and stigma.
Ms. Pillay said various groups have also been accused of extortion and looting of public property including hospitals, health care facilities and aid offices.
“The extensive looting of humanitarian aid agency offices and warehouses, and the disruption of vital humanitarian aid are totally unacceptable and are having a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians,” she said.
“To cite just one of the lethal consequences, as many as three-quarters of women giving birth are believed to be currently not receiving any assistance in a country that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, inevitably resulting in avoidable deaths of both mothers and babies.”
The High Commissioner called on all parties involved in the crisis to ensure the effective implementation of the Libreville Peace Agreements and to make a serious joint effort to put an end to the prevailing insecurity and violence in the country.
The Agreements were signed on 11 of January in Gabon, and call for the establishment of National Transitional Council that would elect a transitional Government.
“I also urge the newly established National Transitional Council to move quickly to restore the authority of the State and to take all necessary measures to ensure that civilians are protected and can exercise their rights without fear for their physical safety, property and livelihoods,” Ms. Pillay added.