CAR Must End Impunity For Extrajudicial Killings
Central African Republic must end impunity for extrajudicial killings - UN expert
7 February 2008 - An independent United Nations human rights expert has urged that extrajudicial killings in the Central African Republic (CAR) be investigated and those responsible be held to account in order to eliminate impunity for such abuses.
"To ensure that the near future does not reprise the nightmare of the recent past, the Government must take the steps to both extend and institutionalize its efforts to respect human rights and to eliminate impunity," UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said at the conclusion of his visit to the CAR.
Government troops and rebel forces in the CAR continue to clash - mostly in the country's northern areas - despite ongoing talks of a peace agreement. The ongoing insecurity has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, forcing an estimated 200,000 people to become internally displaced and thousands of others to flee to Chad or Cameroon as refugees.
In a statement issued in the capital Bangui, Mr. Alston noted that while President François Bozizé has shown that he has the power to prevent the military from committing human rights abuses, "it is still too early to conclude that the Government has definitively turned a new page."
While he reported that the number of extrajudicial executions carried out by the armed forces in the north has fallen "dramatically" over the past six months, owing to a decrease in the fighting, "this is not to say that all executions have ceased."
Mr. Alston noted that although there has been a dramatic decline in executions related to armed conflicts in the north, individual soldiers have not been prosecuted. "It is unsurprising, then, that this impunity has allowed soldiers to continue to use lethal violence for a range of personal and corrupt ends," he stated.
In addition, he received credible reports that torture and extrajudicial executions occur on a regular basis while suspects are in police custody or detention facilities.
The Special Rapporteur acknowledged that there are officials trying to put an end to abuses and ensure that the current mechanisms in place are effective, and their efforts need to be strengthened and supported.
He cited the need for officials to acknowledge the killings that have taken place and respond to allegations of abuses. "While the President has taken some important steps and even issued a limited apology, the Government as a whole has generally been in denial about killings by security forces," he noted.
In addition, the Government must start prosecuting those who bear individual criminal responsibility for killings, and it is also crucial to reform the security sector and regain the trust of the population.
Among his recommendations, Mr. Alston stressed that soldiers should be instructed to obey international human rights and humanitarian law. The Government, for its part, should effectively investigate the range of serious allegations of human rights abuses made against the security forces and provide a detailed public response.
Noting that the current arrangement for international human rights monitoring and assistance is unsatisfactory, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should open an office in the CAR. In addition, the Government should establish a national human rights commission that is independent and fully complies with all relevant international standards.