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(New York) – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should immediately authorize the deployment of a strong UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), nine leading African and international human rights groups said today in a joint letter to the foreign ministers of security council member states. Such a mission, as envisioned in the report UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submitted to the council on March 3, 2014, is urgently needed to protect civilians in the country. 

The groups signing the letter are: Amnesty International, the Central African League for Human Rights (LCDH), the Central African Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), Enough Project, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, Humanity United, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Invisible Children.

“With an entire year of bloodshed in CAR, the security council should have authorized a UN peacekeeping mission months ago,” said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “There is a massive humanitarian and human rights crisis in the country, which has not received the response needed to protect thousands of people who have endured killings, rape, pillage, and displacement from their homes.” 

The human rights crisis plaguing the country since the Seleka took power in March 2013 is compounded by complete impunity for serious human rights abuses. The country has experienced, according to the UN report, a “total breakdown of law and order,” with a collapsed justice system, wrecked correctional facilities, and security forces unable to function. Even the most blatant crimes have gone unpunished. 

Despite an increase in international attention to this crisis, the UN secretary-general found a “grave deterioration of the human rights situation” in the country. The deployment of close to 6,000 African Union (AU) troops and 2,000 French troops is, according to the UN, “not sufficient, and lacks the civilian component to adequately protect civilians.” French and AU forces have not been able to stem the flight of Muslim communities to neighboring countries. In Bangui, according to the UN, only 900 of 140,000 Muslims remain in the capital, and those left behind fear for their lives. 

Seleka forces have retreated to the north with most of their weapons and equipment and continue to pose a serious threat to civilians. Anti-balaka forces continue to torment the few remaining Muslim residents in the country.

The joint letter says that only a strong UN peacekeeping mission, with the resources and the civilian expertise needed to improve the protection of civilians, can help create conditions conducive to the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, help re-establish the basic functions of the rule of law in the country, create the conditions for a safe and voluntary return of displaced people, monitor and report publically on human rights violations, and disarm and reintegrate armed elements.

“The residents of Central African Republic have waited long enough,” said Bolopion. “The time for action by the UN Security Council is now.”

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