Human Rights Watch welcomes the first oral update of the Independent Expert and the report presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Thousands of civilians are in dire need of immediate protection and assistance in the Central African Republic. One year after a March 24, 2013 coup by the Seleka rebel coalition, which toppled the government of President Francois Bozizé, international efforts to address the crisis remain woefully inadequate. There is particularly an urgent need to end impunity for ongoing abuses and ensure accountability for crimes committed by all parties.
The Seleka coup last year unleashed a reign of havoc and terror, evoking a violent and abusive response from anti-balaka militia, and both continue to endanger the people of the Central African Republic. The scaled-up response by the international community since December 2013 has been unable to keep pace with the crisis, particularly the need to protect civilians and provide aid for thousands of displaced people.
The Seleka committed massacres in numerous villages, burned and pillaged houses, recruited children as soldiers, raped women, and probably killed thousands of residents. The attacks created a massive humanitarian crisis, forcing people to live without adequate shelter, food, or health care.
To avenge Seleka abuses, a group of predominantly Christian and animist fighters known as the anti-balaka began in August 2013 to attack the Seleka and target Muslim civilians presumed to support the rebel coalition. In December, the anti-balaka carried out a major attack on Bangui, the capital, forcing the Seleka to retreat and regroup.
The African Union (AU) and France have deployed a growing number of peacekeeping troops to stabilize the Central African Republic, but the peacekeepers have been unable to stop the violence. On February 10, 2014, the European Union agreed to provide troops to protect the populations most at risk, but that force has not yet been deployed. A full-fledged UN peacekeeping force should be authorized and deployed urgently.
Until then, the AU peacekeeping force known as MISCA and the French Sangaris troops need to take immediate additional measures to provide greater security, including actively patrolling areas vulnerable to violence, especially where minority Muslim populations remain. In the wake of the Seleka collapse, thousands of Muslim residents have fled to the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In sum, huge gaps remain in providing the most basic security for the people of the Central African Republic. Residents there live in extreme danger and await the urgent deployment of additional peacekeeping troops, as well as expanded protection by those already on the ground.