By Erica Smith
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
BANGUI, Central African Republic — There is growing concern among human rights groups that crisis is about to erupt in the Central African Republic (CAR). The country has been increasingly unstable since Seleka rebels ousted president François Bozizé seized power March 24. The violence began last December, in a country that has been mark with years of instability, when Seleka rebels launched a series of attacks across the country until a peace agreement was reached in January, only to be abandoned in March.
Rebels have been accused of looting, raping, and killing indiscriminately since they took over the capital in March. Amnesty International accused the rebels of breaking into an orphanage and taking everything of value. Residents accuse the rebels of killing 15 people last month because a minibus they were riding in also carried t-shirts in support of Bozizé. The International Federation for Human Rights have said Seleka rebels have killed more than 400 people since March.
The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court issued a statement on Wednesday voicing her deep concern for the security situation in the CAR. “My office calls upon the international community to assist the Government of CAR in improving the security situation and in protecting civilians in Bangui and throughout the country,” Fatou Bensouda said in her statement. She went on to note that a recent report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) “seem to confirm that crimes that may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court continue to be committed in CAR, including attacks against civilians, murder, rape, and recruitment of child soldiers.”
Ms. Bensouda’s statement came a day after a group of United Nations independent experts declared the rule of law “almost non-existent”in the CAR. “We are seriously concerned over reported acts of killings, torture, arbitrary detention, gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, ‘mob justice’ and the pervasive climate of insecurity and the absence of the rule of law which have prevailed in the country in the last five months,” the UN experts said.
“There have been a number of killings, sometimes in retaliation for incidents of ‘mob justice’ against members of the Séléka coalition. Some 46 cases are allegedly documented,” said Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “I call for a thorough, transparent and independent investigation of all suspected cases of arbitrary executions to identify and bring to justice those responsible.”
Both statements were made a week after UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic issued a statement outlining his fears about the mounting violence and lack of any civilian protections. “Beyond Bangui, there is no police, no justice system and no social services. Security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear…I was particularly alarmed by the high number of Seleka members in the streets who do not receive any salary and set up check points, asking for money or just looting houses.” Simonovic stated.
Residents of the CAR told the New York Times (NYT) of the violence and looting that is being carried out by the Seleka rebels. “The feeling is one of terror: this is what haunts the population,” said Faustin Yandergo, a textile worker to the NYT. “It’s anarchy, a nonstate,” the prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye told NYT “Looting, arson, rape, massacres of the civilian population — they are sowing terrorism.”
For further information, please see:
UN News Centre — ICC Prosecutor voices concern about ongoing serious crimes in Central African Republic — 7 August 2013
New York Times — Violent and Chaotic, Central African Republic Lurches Toward a Crisis — 6 August 2013
UN News Centre — Group of UN experts raise alarm over lawlessness in Central African Republic — 6 August 2013
Fox News — Central Africans living ‘in constant fear’: UN — 1 August 2013
Human Rights Watch — Central African Republic: Seleka Forces Kill Scores, Burn Villages — 27 June 2013