The deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission, which took over from African Union forces on September 15, is a positive step in enhancing civilian protection in the Central African Republic. But serious human rights violations continue.
In recent months, the deadly cycle of sectarian violence has been escalating in central and eastern parts of the country. During two research missions in July and September, Human Rights Watch documented the killing of at least 146 people since June. This figure represents only a fraction of the total since many killings occur in remote areas that are difficult to reach. Victims were often attacked in displacement camps and in areas near their villages when they attempted to hide from their attackers. African Union and French peacekeepers have helped to deter some of the violence, but their actions have not stopped the deadly attacks. UN peacekeepers should urgently improve protection for civilians in these areas.
The situation for the country’s Muslim population remains desperate. Large numbers fled from the capital, Bangui, and western parts of the country during waves of anti-Muslim violence in early 2014. Many are currently refugees in neighbouring countries. The Muslims who remain in western CAR live in fear for their lives in enclaves with minimal access to humanitarian assistance and still threatened by anti-balaka attacks. The UN peacekeeping mission should urgently enhance protection for these enclaves and provide security to facilitate the return home of hundreds of thousands of civilians, from all communities, who have been displaced by the violence.
Human Rights Watch is greatly disturbed that peacekeepers from the MISCA mission are also implicated in serious human rights abuses, including the disappearance and presumed executions of at least 11 civilians from the town of Boali in March. Despite pledges by the MISCA commander and the African Union, these abuses have not been investigated, and those responsible have not been brought to justice. We urge the Human Rights Council to press for a proper investigation into the allegations of abuses committed by peacekeepers in CAR and call for accountability.
Impunity lies at the heart of the crisis in the Central African Republic. Perpetrators of serious human rights abuses have not faced accountability for decades thereby feeding the cycle of tit-for-tat killings. We welcome the announcement on September 24 that the ICC will open a second investigation on the crimes committed in CAR. Human Rights Watch urges the new UN peacekeeping mission to support both international and national justice efforts to hold perpetrators to account.