Human Rights and Democracy Report 2015 - Human Rights Priority Country update report: July to December 2016 - Central African Republic (CAR)

The Central African Republic (CAR) made significant progress in 2016. A successful democratic transition of power was followed up in November by a donor conference, which brought the international community and international financial institutions together to support the CAR government’s National Plan for Recovery and Peacebuilding (RCPA). Pledges totalling $2.2 billion were made to assist with implementation of the plan, including policies to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate armed groups, repatriate displaced persons, and reform the security sector. The UK’s commitment was £36 million in humanitarian funding, with £24 million in contingency funding. These funds, however, will not directly contribute to the RCPA, but rather the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).

Despite this, the human rights situation in CAR remained a serious cause for concern. A range of human rights abuses continued to occur, including abductions; arbitrary killings; conflict-related sexual violence; and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The report of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic to the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council noted that “the situation was still worsening”. The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in CAR (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA) also recorded an alarming increase in the number of incidents of human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the period.

The ongoing fragility of the security situation represents the largest threat to human rights in CAR. This is particularly acute in the ungoverned space outside the capital Bangui, where armed groups can operate with freedom. During the reporting period, there were attacks on civilians and internally displaced persons, including an attack on a school.

Tensions between ex-Seleka (Muslim) and anti-balaka (Christian) rebels continued. While it is unlikely that religion is the primary driver of the violence, religious hostility, and associated violence against civilians and internally displaced persons, has continued. In October, the head of the CAR armed forces was shot in Bangui by Muslim militia which led to reprisals and revenge attacks against Muslim civilians.

The worst ethnic violence occurred in November 2016. The Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), an ex-Seleka armed group, reportedly targeted ethnic Fulani in Bria. Up to 100 people are reported to have been killed and nearly 11,000 displaced. At the time the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide called for an immediate end to the hostilities and urged the authorities to take urgent measures to protect the population from further violence, regardless of their ethnicity or political affiliation.

Conflict-related sexual violence continued throughout the country during the second half of 2016, with cases of rape, sexual slavery and sexual assault affecting women, girls and boys. Once again, the majority of these cases were perpetrated by ex-Seleka or anti-balaka armed groups.

A UN-led inter-agency group, headed by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), reported more than 60,000 cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the first 10 months of 2016, of which about 30,000 involved victims of sexual violence, including rape. In Bangui, Human Rights Watch continued to document cases of sexual violence in the reporting period.

The United Nations also documented a number of cases of human rights violations and abuses related to allegations of witchcraft.

The lack of a functioning national judicial system has meant that little action has been taken to address human rights abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice. Progress continues towards the establishment of the Special Criminal Court which will have a mandate to end impunity for crimes under international law. A number of non-governmental organisations encouraged donors at the November conference to provide more technical, financial, and political support for the court.

The National Plan for Recovery and Peacebuilding, which the CAR government drafted with the support of the European Union (EU), the UN, and the World Bank, has 3 main pillars. The second pillar “to renew the social contract between the state and the population” puts an emphasis on justice reform and promoting an end to impunity as well as strengthening good governance and developing anti-corruption measures.

The UK continued its strong support for both UN and EU efforts to improve the political and security situation in CAR. The EU Military Advisory Mission (EUMAM CAR) completed its mission in July. It was succeeded by a training mission (EUTM CAR); the primary purpose of which is to promote security sector reform through the training of the CAR armed forces. As part of this work, the mission will help develop the CAR armed forces educational system, including training on gender and respect for human rights.

The UN Peacekeeping Mission has made an active effort to improve the human rights situation, conducting human rights awareness training workshops for civil servants, civil society representatives, journalists, human rights defenders and representatives of armed groups

The UK remains deeply concerned by allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse made against international peacekeeping troops in CAR, and has called on countries contributing troops to UN peacekeeping missions to investigate all allegations thoroughly and ensure those found guilty are brought to justice. The UN has taken steps to address this problem; MINUSCA carried out training and awareness-raising activities on child protection for peacekeepers, armed groups, civil society, gendarmerie and the national police of CAR, in collaboration with the United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF).