Top UN human rights official welcomes improvements, urges continued efforts: Central African Republic


Following her four-day visit to the Central African Republic, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris welcomed recent steps to improve the human rights situation in the country but urged continued efforts by the Government and its partners to address persisting human rights and humanitarian challenges.

Brands Kehris, who was in CAR between 5 and 8 October, met with President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, as well as other senior government officials, including the acting Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She also engaged with State institutions in charge of promoting human rights and good governance, civil society organisations, including victims’ associations, and representatives from the diplomatic community, regional organisations and the United Nations system.

Noting that insecurity remains a primary concern across much of the country, she noted the important protection work conducted by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), including through its human rights component.

The Assistant Secretary-General welcomed CAR’s recent advances in addressing some human rights concerns, among them the adoption of a law against trafficking in persons and the abolition of the death penalty. Last year, two new Minister Counsellors were appointed to lead work on human rights, good governance and efforts against sexual violence in conflict.

She also welcomed the investigations and start of war crimes and crimes against humanity trials by the Special Criminal Court for the Central African Republic, and the recent establishment of the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. She emphasized, however, that these mechanisms remain in need of political support and funding from the Government, with assistance from the international community.

She noted that despite these recent positive steps, challenges persist. Protracted armed conflict has led to the forcible displacement of about one in four Central Africans, many of them multiple times. Thousands of children, women and men continue to live in constant fear for their lives and physical integrity. More than 60 per cent of the population is currently in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, with delivery of basic services, including education and healthcare, still severely impeded. Cases of summary and extrajudicial execution, arbitrary detention, torture, and conflict-related sexual violence continue to be reported.

The Assistant Secretary-General also received reports of intimidation, pillaging and serious human rights violations by defense and security forces, as well as alleged abuses by personnel of private military companies operating in the country.

“To end violence in the Central African Republic, the cycle of impunity must be broken, no matter who is responsible,” Brands Kehris stated. “Promoting the rule of law is essential to stability and peace in the country. I call on the Government to strengthen accountability mechanisms, along with investigations and other oversight and judicial efforts, and ensure greater transparency and public communication regarding their responses to human rights violations and abuses, including in the context of military operations against armed groups.”

Furthermore, in meetings with civil society organizations, including youth and women’s groups and victims’ associations, the Assistant Secretary-General heard first-hand people’s call for justice and reparation for past and current serious violations. She also heard their concerns about the shortage of work opportunities, shrinking civic space and a tense political environment marked by increased hate speech and incitement to violence, including in relation to recent debates on proposed constitutional amendments.

“Strengthening social cohesion and addressing underlying grievances are key to the stability of the country. I call on the Government to take decisive measures to ensure the inclusive participation of all Central Africans in public life, to protect civic space, and to publicly condemn messages that incite violence. The authorities should also take steps to improve access to health, education, and livelihoods. I encourage the international community to support such efforts,” she added.

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