By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA - A human rights lawyer appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council reported to the body Friday that the war-torn Central African Republic’s civilian population is being battered by both armed groups and security forces meant to protect them.
FILE - Residents watch as a U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) armored personnel carrier patrols after attacks in Begoua, a northern district of Bangui, C.A.R., Jan. 13, 2021. @VOANews
The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since rebels overthrew the government in 2013, displacing 1.2 million people. Togolese human rights lawyer Yao Agbetse was appointed by the U.N. council in 2019 to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the C.A.R.
He says the Coalition of Patriots for Change, a collection of major rebel groups, has intensified its attacks against the civilian population since March. He accuses the CPC of recruiting child soldiers, committing sexual violence and murders, illegal taxation, destruction and looting of property, and occupation of schools. He says action is being taken to hold them to account. He speaks through an interpreter.
"Most of the leaders and members of the CPC are on the list of sanctions from the Security Council concerning the CAR," Agbetse said. "The Security Council and the international community as a whole is taking the appropriate steps to ensure that these individuals can be held accountable to violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Agbetse says C.A.R. security forces and foreign allies have managed to drive the armed groups out of many areas they have occupied. However, he says many human rights violations allegedly were committed during those operations by members of the military and security personnel, including Russian instructors. He speaks through an interpreter.
"The Central African authorities must pursue proper investigations regardless of the grade or the military rank of the perpetrators," Agbetse said. "And attention should be particularly given to victims of these violations. Military justice needs to be triggered in order to provide military justice in the Central African Republic.”
The U.N. expert adds investigations into alleged sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers also must be investigated and sanctioned.
C.A.R. Minister of Human Rights and Justice Arnaud Djoubaye Abazene, speaking in response to the report, says he agrees the persistence of human rights violations committed by armed groups remains worrying. He says it is crucial for human rights violators to be brought to justice. That, he says, justifies the need for his government to pursue efforts to tackle impunity and to get the country’s system of transitional justice up and running.