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Central African Republic: Human Rights Council holds high-level interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic

Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Central African Republic
MIDDAY GENEVA (20 March 2019) - The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held a high-level interactive dialogue on the evolution of the human rights situation in the Central African Republic. Nazhat Shameem Khan, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, said the high-level interactive dialogue would assess the evolution of the human rights situation in the Central African Republic on the ground, placing special emphasis on women’s organizations and representatives of victims in the peace and reconciliation process. Andrew Gilmour, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that the signature on 6 February of the global peace agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups marked an important milestone on the road to peace for all Central Africans. The agreement was developed in the framework of the African initiative for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic and under the leadership of the African Union. However, the human rights situation remained highly volatile. Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said the recent signing of the Khartoum agreement between the Government and 14 armed groups was a sign of hope. She welcomed the lack of any amnesty for crimes committed in the agreement, in line with the wishes of a large part of the population. She also congratulated the parties involved in endorsing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission to support the victims of crimes. However, as regards the establishment of a commission to analyse all aspects of the conflict and make recommendations in the area of justice, she was concerned that its mandate was not very precise, and that it was not inclusive of civil society groups. Musa Gassama, Head of the Human Rights Component of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, said that the political, socio-economic and security context in the Central African Republic remained prone to multifaceted violence and human rights violations with 880 civilians, including 146 women and 117 children, killed in 2018. Armed groups accounted for 98 per cent of documented human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations. Ismael Leopold Samba, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as the concerned country, said this was a decisive phase in the history of the Central African Republic. The 6 February agreement for peace and reconciliation would not have been possible without the support of the United Nations and the European Union. A new governmental team had been set up to implement the agreement to enable the country to regain a path to peace. In the ensuing discussion, delegations welcomed the signing of the peace agreement and affirmed its historical importance. It was vital for civil society, women and youth to be fully engaged in the process. Signatories to the agreement were invited to honour their commitment through its full implementation. The importance of providing technical assistance to the Central African Republic was reiterated. Deliberate attacks on women, humanitarian actors and medical establishments were condemned. Delegations underlined that peace could only be lasting if it contained specific measures to combat impunity. Details were requested about the current situation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan and of children in the armed conflict. Speaking during the discussion were: European Union, Sudan, United Kingdom, Belgium, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Women, Togo, Russian Federation, France, Egypt, Gabon, Chad, Ireland, Senegal, China, Congo, Cameroon, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire and Portugal. The following civil society organizations also spoke: Catholic International Education Office, World Evangelical Alliance, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l #39;homme, and Association of World Citizens. The Council will next hear the presentation of written reports by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on the human rights situation in Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras and Iran, and on the human rights situation of Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar, and two oral updates on Venezuela and Yemen, followed by a general debate. Opening Statement NAZHAT SHAMEEM KHAN, Vice-President of the Human Rights Council, said that based on the Council’s resolution 39/19, the Council had decided to organize a high-level interactive dialogue to assess the evolution of the human rights situation on the ground, placing special emphasis on women’s organizations and representatives of victims, in the peace and reconciliation process, with the participation of the Independent Expert and representatives of the Government of the Central African Republic and the United Nations. Keynote Statements ANDREW GILMOUR, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that the signature on 6 February of the global peace agreement between the Government and 14 armed groups marked an important milestone on the road to peace for all Central Africans. The agreement was developed in the framework of the African initiative for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic and under the leadership of the African Union. The fight against impunity was enshrined in the agreement. The peace agreement recognized the need for a coherent transitional justice strategy which included the establishment of truth through dialogue, reparations to victims, and institutional reforms. Steps had been taken to operationalize the Special Criminal Court to resume trials by national courts and transfer members of two armed groups to the International Criminal Court. Efforts were needed to ensure the functioning of the 28 ordinary courts that faced major challenges in bringing justice to people. The agreement stipulated establishing the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which should conform to international standards. Hope was expressed that incidents such was the one in Bambari last November where members of armed group’s kidnapped young leaders would not be repeated. The human rights situation remained highly volatile. Several attacks by armed groups were reported in the southwestern part of the country in January, resulting in 37 deaths of civilians. In 2018, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission documented 4,521 victims resulting from 2,640 cases of violations of international human rights law. Members of civil society, particularly women and youth, were invited as observers of peace talks in Khartoum. Initiatives at the local level to organize peace dialogues, such as in Batangafo, were contributions to reduce violence. It was important for the Inclusive Commission established under the peace agreement to live up to its name. Special emphasis would be placed on supporting the newly established National Commission of Human Rights, accompanying the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and supporting the Mixed Rapid Intervention Unit. In addition, as mandated by the Security Council, the Human Rights Component of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission would continue to monitor and report on violations. MARIE-THÉRÈSE KEÏTA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said she had visited the Central African Republic from 15 to 25 January 2019. During her mission, she had met with numerous members of the Government, the African Union and members of civil society. She had also made field visits to the Bimbo Women’s Prison, and the Rapid Intervention Police Unit. During these meetings she had heard powerful calls for peace and reconciliation from all parties. The recent signing of the Khartoum agreement on 6 February 2019 between the Government and 14 armed groups was a sign of hope. She noted in particular the formation of a government delegation comprising women and civil society groups to participate in the dialogue, as a symbol of unity. She also welcomed several provisions that prioritized human rights, including the lack of any amnesty for crimes committed, in line with the wishes of a large part of the population. She congratulated the parties involved in endorsing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission to support the victims of crimes. However, as regards the establishment of a commission to analyse all aspects of the conflict and make recommendations in the area of justice, she was concerned that its mandate was not very precise, and that it was not inclusive of civil society groups. Further, in her meetings with victims’ groups, she had learned that the work of investigating past crimes was not adequately funded, and she called for technical assistance in the work of victim support initiatives. Among the recommendations made for informing policy makers, she highlighted the need to protect victims and witnesses, the care for former child soldiers, and the revitalization of the juvenile justice system. She also called for additional funding for the National Commission for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to aid its work. A peace agreement was not an end in itself, and it was necessary to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including poverty and violence. Despite the peace agreement, reports persisted of human rights violations and breaches of humanitarian law. Whilst the demobilization of child soldiers had occurred, there remained the risk that some would return to fighting, given the lack of alternative paths. As such she called for the provision of education and work for such groups. MUSA YERRO GASSAMA, Head of the Human Rights Component of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, said that the political, socio-economic and security context in the Central African Republic remained prone to multifaceted violence and human rights violations with 880 civilians, including 146 women and 117 children, killed in 2018. Armed groups accounted for 98 per cent of documented human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations. Despite signing numerous peace agreements, these armed groups failed to uphold their obligations and continued to attack humanitarian workers and their equipment, impeding access to humanitarian assistance for civilians. Utilizing the urgent temporary measures established by the Mission’s Security Council mandate, the Integrated Stabilization Mission was able to arrest numerous perpetrators and restore a more secure environment for civilians and internally displaced persons. Although previous peace agreements had not succeeded, the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Central African Republic had generated renewed optimism for peace. This peace agreement would provide new opportunities to advance economic, social and cultural rights and the Mission would work with the Government to ensure the inclusion of women and youth in the monitoring of the security agreements and mechanisms created to support the implementation of the peace agreement. Statement by the Concerned Country ISMAEL LEOPOLD SAMBA, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic in Geneva to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as the concerned country, said that this meeting was taking place when the Central African Republic was at a decisive phase in its history. After two years of dialogue with 14 armed groups, the agreement for peace and reconciliation was signed in Bangui on 6 February 2019. It would not have been possible without the support of the United Nations and the European Union. A new governmental team was set up to implement the agreement to enable the country to regain a path to peace. Through strong actions, the Government had to put in place mechanisms to address numerous problems. The Government was willing to address ongoing discrimination. Weapons had to stop being used in the Central African Republic. Villages were burned down and there were many displaced persons. These atrocities had to end. The international community, which had assisted for all to meet in Khartoum and then sign the agreement in Bangui, had to continue to offer support. The entire population of the Central African Republic was aspiring to live in peace. High-Level Interactive Dialogue on the Central African Republic European Union welcomed the signing of the Bangui peace agreement and called for its expeditious implementation. Armed groups had to stop their attacks against humanitarian actors. The European Union recalled the need to include all elements of society in the peace process. Sudan commended the efforts of the Government despite continuing challenges. Sudan remained willing to provide technical assistance to ensure that lasting peace reigned over the country. United Kingdom strongly condemned the deliberate attacks on women, humanitarian actors and medical establishments, and called on all parties to the conflict to cease all violent attacks on civilians. It asked the High Commissioner what could be done by the international community to support the Central African Republic at this critical junction. Belgium said peace could only be lasting if it contained specific measures to combat impunity. As the implementation of the peace agreement had to go hand in hand with reinsertion and rehabilitation of child soldiers, Belgium asked about the current situation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration plan and of children in the armed conflict. United Nations Children’s Fund called for the immediate release of all children associated with armed groups and for those imprisoned for their association with armed groups to be treated first as children and victims in front of the law. The Government was urged to adopt the child protection code to align its juvenile justice system with international standards. United Nations Women called on all parties to adopt specific measures to promote the active participation of women in all areas of the peace process. It recommended developing a framework to address sexual violence, gender based violence and strengthening the rule of law. Togo was delighted with progress made with the signing of the peace agreement, and the stakeholders were encouraged to fully implement its provisions. The Central African Republic faced a number of challenges, which meant that the Government had to strengthen its response to them. Russian Federation said that sustainable peace and development could not be achieved without a commitment to human rights. The African Union’s efforts to unblock the crisis in the country were welcomed, in line with the view – African problems, African solutions. France welcomed the good cooperation of the authorities of the Central African Republic with the Independent Expert and affirmed the historical importance of the peace agreement. It was vital for civil society, women and youth to be fully engaged in the process. Egypt appreciated efforts made to restore peace and reconciliation as well as to restore security on the entire territory of the Central African Republic. The importance of providing technical assistance to the Central African Republic was reiterated. Gabon welcomed decisive action taken by the Central African Republic and reiterated that the peace agreement was historic in its importance. Gabon was convinced that the implementation of the peace agreement would succeed in building the social fabric and the rule of law in the country. Chad encouraged authorities to continue on their path for the full promotion of human rights, based on transitional justice. Signatories to the agreement were invited to honour their commitment through the full implementation of the agreement. Ireland said that the voices of all parts of society needed to be heard for the successful implementation of the peace agreement. It asked how human rights concerns could be addressed in the implementation of the peace agreement in relation to transitional justice and whether there were any new human rights concerns that may emerge as the country moved towards the implementation of the peace agreement. Senegal welcomed the emphasis placed in the report on combatting impunity and working towards transitional justice. Stabilizing the security situation in the Central African Republic required the support of the international community. China welcomed the signing of the peace agreement between the Government and armed groups. It called on the international community to see the human rights situation in the Central African Republic in a fair and impartial manner and to support the Government’s efforts. Republic of Congo welcomed the opportunity for a lasting peace hailed by the signing of the Bangui agreement. It called on the Government to step up efforts to establish the rule of law across its territories. Cameroon said that peace, security and stability were fundamental to the enjoyment, promotion and protection of human rights. It saluted the will of the Government of the Central African Republic to improve institutions to promote human rights. Australia called on the Central African Republic’s Government to ensure accountability for human rights violations and abuses and to develop a transitional justice approach that focused on the interests of victims and ensured their participation. What could be done by the Central African Republic’s Government to guarantee that victims of human rights abuses had access to an effective remedy. Côte d’Ivoire welcomed initiatives undertaken by national authorities, including institutional efforts and the signing of the peace agreement. Major challenges remained in the area of security, sustainable peace and the fight against poverty, and all parties were called upon to implement the roadmap to peace, developed by the African Union. Portugal was committed to the stabilization of the Central African Republic. The recent deterioration of the security situation, including attacks on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, had particularly intensified Portugal’s concerns. Catholic International Education Office said the Central African Republic was caught up in a cycle of barbaric violence, mainly in the centre and south-east of the country. Schools were vital for social cohesion, however, children in many areas were fleeing reprisals. World Evangelical Alliance, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), welcomed efforts towards peace and reconciliation. The fight against impunity for perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes still had to be tackled properly. International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) raised a number of concerns, including human rights violations by rebel groups. The situation on the ground showed the need to combat impunity and the Government was reminded that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had to be established by the end of the year. Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l #39;homme said that since the last interactive dialogue, the security situation in the Central African Republic had significantly improved. However, chronic food insecurity, continued sexual violence, and the recruitment of children into rebel groups was alarming. Association of World Citizens hoped that unlike the 2012 peace agreement, this peace agreement would be sustainable. It was important to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to combat impunity. Concluding Remarks ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, was encouraged by the number of speakers who spoke bolstering resolve that there should be no amnesty and highlighting the need for justice. There was a specific need for women and children to be involved in the peace process. There needed to be a shortening of the pre-trial detention period. MARIE-THÉRÈSE KEÏTA BOCOUM, Independent Expert on Human Rights in the Central African Republic, said that many institutions had been established to promote human rights and transitional j they needed support to be fully operationalised. The special criminal court had started to work and the assizes national court had started to hand down decisions. Since the Bangui forum, all had agreed to fight impunity, and the Government should be encouraged not to yield to any threat or pressure on the fight against impunity, otherwise there may be a more serious conflict in the future. The international community should support and encourage the principle of inclusivity in the peace process, including women and children, as this would reduce the risk of future wars. It was imperative to support a project for demobilized young people - 500 demobilized last year, and more on their way after the Bangui agreement - in order to reintegrate them into society and involve them in peace building, to avoid them slipping back into the ranks of armed groups due to lack of income or ostracization by society. Financial and psychological witness support mechanisms were needed for those waiting to testify at trials. MUSA YERRO GASSAMA, Head of the Human Rights Component of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, said today’s interventions, including by the Independent Expert, had made a major contribution to implementing the mandate of the Stabilization Mission, and for the promotion and protection for human rights. Mr. Gassama also thanked the Government of the Central African Republic for its efforts in promoting and protecting human rights. Great efforts continued in the country. He encouraged the international community to come to the aid of the National Commission for Human Rights, which had no budget. The Central African Republic now had a national plan for the prevention of hate speech and the international community should support the Government in its implementation. ISMAEL LEOPOLD SAMBA, Permanent Representative of the Central African Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked all who continued to support the Central African Republic. There were two architects, one from inside and the other from outside. Mr. Samba said he would end with a metaphor. They had talked about rape, atrocities, but had not talked about a home for everyone. It was important to look at how solid the home we lived in was, it should not have a cracked roof and it had to have a solid structure. Otherwise, despite the efforts, it would not be useful. The international community was called to provide the country with a strong State that could take up its functions. For use of the information not an official record


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