The United Nations is making an important contribution to protecting civilians from rights abuses related to ongoing and chronic insecurity and attack by various armed actors in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). However, serious protection gaps remain. In eastern Chad, camp environments are unsafe for the most vulnerable among conflict-affected civilians, with women subject to gender-based violence and children targeted for recruitment into armed groups. Outside the camp environment, insecurity reigns, and seasonal returns to areas of origin have not been without incident. Across the north of CAR, civilians are often forced to fend for themselves against a variety of armed actors.

As the Security Council considers adopting a resolution on arrangements for the follow-on by the United Nations of the European operation in eastern Chad and the northeastern Central African Republic, Human Rights Watch offers concrete measures that the Security Council can take now to reduce abuses and enhance the protection of civilians.


Chad

The human rights climate in Chad can only be regarded as extremely poor. Human rights violations by government officials and agents include: extrajudicial killings; politically motivated enforced disappearances; arbitrary arrest and detention; abuses of detainees that include torture and denial of due process rights; the use and recruitment of child soldiers, including those under the age of 15; and gender and sexual-based violence, including rape. Both Chadian and Sudanese rebel groups operating in Chad use and recruit child soldiers.

End Gender-Based Violence

In refugee camps and displaced persons sites, tasks that are traditionally reserved for women and girls, such as collecting firewood and gathering straw used to make woven mats, put women and girls at increased risk of rape by host communities. Women and girls are also subject to sexual-based violence within the camp environment, including rape. Rapes are not adjudicated by formal judicial institutions, but are more typically addressed by means of fines levied by traditional authorities, allowing little redress or justice for survivors. 

Women and girls in refugee camps and internal displacement sites who acknowledge being raped are also often ostracized or punished by their families, intensifying the psychological and physical trauma. As a result, many survivors of sexual violence are reluctant to seek medical assistance or justice.[1]

Recommendations

  • Future UN Security Council resolutions on Chad should cross-reference Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) regarding ways that the United Nations and its member states can incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations.
  • The UN Security Council should convene a Council meeting to discuss the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in Chad and the justice mechanisms available to the victims of such violence. Following that meeting, issue a resolution outlining the specific measures that the Chadian government should take, within a specified period, to address those concerns. Ensure that the resolution also specifies ways in which MINURCAT can support Chadian government efforts to address sexual violence.

End the Recruitment and Use of Children as Soldiers

All parties to the conflict in Chad have been responsible for the use and recruitment of child soldiers, including the government forces and both Chadian rebels and Sudanese rebels. 

Human Rights Watch documented the recruitment of child soldiers by members of the Chadian National Army (Armée Nationale du Tchad, ANT) at most of the large displacement sites in southeastern Dar Sila region, including Gouroukoum, Habile, Gassire and Coupigou.[2] ANT recruitment visits to displaced persons' sites increased in frequency in the immediate aftermath of the attempted Chadian rebel coup d'état in February 2008, according to three women at Gouroukoum camp who told Human Rights Watch that their sons had joined the army at the time.[3] A 16-year-old boy at Gouroukoum camp told Human Rights Watch that 12 of his peers from the camp had joined the ANT in the aftermath of the February attack.[4]

Children in Sudanese refugee camps in eastern Chad are also subject to recruitment. Human Rights Watch research in Djabal refugee camp in Dar Sila in June 2008 determined that Sudanese rebels with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which receives backing from the Chadian government, figured prominently in this practice in 2008.

Human Rights Watch spoke with the mother of Mubarak Oumar Zakaria Isaak, a 15-year-old boy who was recruited by the JEM from Djabal camp in eastern Chad in February, and was taken prisoner during a JEM attack in Omdurman, in the Khartoum suburbs, in May. This is what she said:

He was at home in the morning. I went to the food distribution. When I came back home, Mubarak had already left for school. That night, he didn't come back home. I thought he was dead. I was very worried. I'm still not at ease. They called to say he was with the people who attacked Khartoum. He was arrested. I couldn't sleep that night. If I could I would go find him. I have nothing else to say except that I think my child will come back.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that child recruitment by JEM continues.

In September 2007, the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict specifically called upon Chad to take concrete steps to stop the recruitment of children into government forces, including the development of a time-bound action plan to prevent illegal recruitment and demobilize child soldiers; the establishment a national institution to coordinate the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces and groups; the criminalization of the unlawful use and recruitment of children under domestic laws; and the strengthening of the commitment of law enforcement and judicial officials to investigate and prosecute crimes against children.[5] As of this writing, the government has not complied with the Working Group's requests.

Addressing the use and recruitment of child soldiers by Chadian rebel groups is urgently needed, but will require coordination with child protection authorities in Darfur, where most Chadian rebel groups are based.

Recommendations

  • The UN Security Council should ensure that any future Security Council Resolutions on Chad cross-reference UN Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) on children in armed conflict.
  • The UN Security Council should authorize a mobile child protection unit to specifically address child protection issues in refugee camps and displacement sites.

Extend Protection Presence in Rural and Rebel-Controlled Areas

The European Union Force's (EUFOR) highly visible and robust presence in the towns of Goz Beida, Iriba, Farchana and Abéché, where it has established permanent bases, has contributed to a generalized sense of security among civilians, including refugees and displaced persons.[6] The same cannot be said in rural and remote areas, where the government has ceded its monopoly on the use of force to paramilitary groups, and EUFOR's presence has been intermittent or non-existent.

By concentrating its protection presence in the vicinities of refugee camps and displaced persons sites, which are usually situated on the outskirts of large towns, the UN Mission in Chad has not provided sufficient protection to displaced persons and other conflict-affected civilians living outside of organized refugee camps, internal displacement sites and large towns.

A global spike in commodity prices in 2008 combined with a reduction in food rations and difficulty finding open land for cultivation in the vicinity of displacement sites has put pressure on internally displaced persons to temporarily return to their areas of origin to cultivate crops in spite of ongoing insecurity, particularly during the planting and harvest seasons. In some cases Sudanese refugees have temporarily quit camp environments to cultivate crops in rural areas of eastern Chad as well.[7] The absence of Chadian security forces in seasonal return areas has contributed to instability that threatens displaced persons.

EUFOR has conducted some patrols in seasonal return areas, but internally displaced persons report that EUFOR's performance compared unfavorably with the protection provided in agricultural areas in 2007 by the United Front for Chad (Front Uni pour le Changement, FUC), a Chadian rebel movement that had joined forces with the Chadian government in late 2006. Displaced persons told Human Rights Watch that FUC forces were able to address their need for protection in temporary return areas by conducting extensive patrols during the planting and harvest seasons, including in remote agricultural areas far from roads.[8] At Gassire camp, where the prevalence of acute malnutrition climbed above 10 percent in September 2008,[9] displaced persons told Human Rights Watch that the attenuated protection posture of EUFOR, relative to the FUC, inhibited many from cultivating crops in the 2008 growing season.[10]

Extremely insecure areas of eastern Chad include most of the eastern portion of Wadi Fira region; the area south of Wadi Azoum; Tissi, in the tri-border region where Chad, Sudan and the Central African Republic meet; and Kadja canton, northeast of Goz Beida.

Internally displaced persons living in rebel-controlled areas, such as Kadja canton northeast of Goz Beida, receive neither humanitarian assistance nor protection.  Displaced persons who returned to Goz Beida in June 2008 from seasonal returns to Koumou, in Kadja canton, told Human Rights Watch that a farmer named Abbas Anour was killed by the militia group there in May 2008 after he resisted the theft of his animals.  Displaced persons reported that Sudanese and Chadian militia groups controlled both Koumou and Abiribire, which they referred to as part of "Sudan Djadid," which is Arabic for "New Sudan," and that non-Arab Chadians are obliged to pay these militia members taxes.[11]

Recommendations

  • Human Rights Watch strongly supports the Secretary-General's request that upward of 6,000 troops are required for eastern Chad.
  • The UN Security Council should mandate an expansion of MINURCAT to allow for the broadest possibly geographic reach for humanitarian assistance and protection activities.
  • The UN Security Council should explicitly authorize MINURCAT to establish communication links with rebel groups as needed to facilitate the protection and the provision of assistance to conflict-affected civilians living in areas under rebel control.
  • The UN Security Council should expand patrols in seasonal return corridors and returnee sites in insecure areas of eastern Chad, including off-road agricultural areas.

End Impunity

Impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses remains the greatest obstacle to ending insecurity and violence against civilians in Chad. The government has at times initiated investigations into alleged rights violations by government security forces, but rarely have these investigations led to prosecutions, let alone convictions.

For example, Human Rights Watch has documented the alleged involvement of Hassan Saleh Al Gadam al-Djinnedi, a former Chadian rebel who is now a member of the government, in an attack on civilians in the adjacent villages of Marena and Tiero on March 31, 2007. According to eyewitnesses, a Chadian rebel faction led by al-Djinnedi, the Chadian National Concord Movement (Concorde Nationale du Tchad, CNT), was responsible for the deaths of between 200 and 400 civilians, many of them displaced persons, including women and children, some of whom were shot while trying to flee.

Djinnedi has also been linked by the United Nations Panel of Experts on Sudan to a September 2005 raid near Modoyna that resulted in the deaths of 75 civilians. At the time, Djinedi was fighting as an anti-government rebel under the banner of the Chadian National Democratic Front (Front National Démocratique du Tchad, FNTR).[12]  

Despite these serious allegations, Djinnedi was named Chad's Secretary of State for National Defense in Charge of War Veterans and Victims following a December 2007 peace agreement with the Chadian government, which is a substantial reward for accepting national political authority.

So long as warlords are rewarded with desirable military or political posts, it should not be surprising to see other ambitious fighters try to build themselves a base for negotiation on the backs of a suffering civilian population. So long as military officers can violate the law with impunity, it should not surprise anyone to see soldiers under their command engaging in human rights abuses.

Recommendations

  • The UN Security Council should direct the MINURCAT human rights unit to investigate and to publish prompt and full accounts of serious abuses committed in eastern Chad. 
  • The UN Security Council should explicitly authorize MINURCAT to provide capacity-building in key institutions that can safeguard the rights of civilians over long term, such as the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Human Rights.


Central African Republic

The military component of the United Nations operation in CAR is fulfilling its mandate of protecting civilians in northeast CAR, and has played an important role in stabilizing the fragile tri-border region it shares with Chad and Sudan.  MINURCAT is not mandated to protect civilians in northwest CAR, where the majority of the serious human rights abuses are now taking place.

Civilians living in the northwest of CAR suffer serious human rights and international humanitarian law abuses at the hands armed groups that include the CAR rebel group Popular Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (Armée Populaire pour la restauration de la République et la Démocratie, APRD) and Chadian government soldiers.  The single largest threat to civilian security in the northwest are not parties to the conflict but are loosely organized bandits known as zaraguinas, who are predominantly Chadian nationals.[13] 

The government's regular army troops, the Central African Armed Forces (Forces Armées Centrafricaines, FACA), are generally ineffective in protecting civilians in northern CAR, largely due to capacity constraints but also due to operating methodologies that put civilians at risk.  Human Rights Watch research in March 2008 in northwest CAR found that the FACA has failed to provide effective warnings of impending military operations and has resorted to the indiscriminate use of lethal force. 

Recommendation

  • Human Rights Watch supports the continuation and possible expansion of the MINURCAT deployment in the Central African Republic (CAR).

[1] Human Rights Watch interviews, various locations, eastern Chad, 2006 to 2008.

[2]  See Human Rights Watch, Early to War, Vol. 19, No. 9(A), July 2007, https://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2007/07/15/early-war; They Came Here to Kill Us, Vol. 19, No. 1(A), January 2007, https://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2007/01/08/they-came-here-kill-us-0 and Violence Beyond Borders, No. 4, June 2006, https://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/africa/chad0606/chad0606.pdf.

[3] Human Rights Watch interviews, Gouroukoum camp, Chad, June 2008.

[4] Human Rights Watch interviews, Gouroukoum camp, Chad, June 12, 2008.

[5] UN Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, "Conclusions on children and armed conflict in Chad," (S/AC.51/2007/16), September 24, 2007.

[6] EUFOR's presence also appears to have had a deterrent effect. A Chadian Arab tribal leader with links to community-based militias that participated in attacks against civilians at the height of inter-communal violence in 2006 told Human Rights Watch that the presence of 3,000 EU troops in eastern Chad made the resumption of organized militia violence against civilians impossible. Human Rights Watch interview, Abougoudam, Chad, June 4, 2008.

[7] OCHA noted the movement of refugees from Djabal camp in the Goz Beida area into the nearby Ardélik area in April 2008 to cultivate crops. OCHA, "Goz Beida - Compte-rendu de la reunion du coordination des actions en faveur des IDPs," internal OCHA document, April 4, 2008.

[8] Human Rights Watch interviews, Gassire camp, Chad, June 14, 2008.

[9] OCHA, "Humanitarian Action in Chad: Facts and Figures Snapshot Report," October 23, 2008.

[10] Human Rights Watch interviews, June 2008.

[11] Human Rights Watch interviews, Gouroukoum camp, Chad, June 2008.

[12] UN Security Council, "Report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to paragraph 3 of resolution 1591 (2005) concerning the Sudan," January 30, 2006, p. 77. 

[13] Though zaraguinas are most often Chadian nationals, many hail from CAR, Cameroon and Niger.  Zaraguinas first arrived on CAR territory in the early 1980s as fallout from the Chadian civil war.  Since President Bozizé's assumption of power, the number, scope and intensity of attacks by zaraguinas have risen dramatically.