Central African Republic: ‘They must all leave, or die’

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War crimes and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated in the Central African Republic (CAR) and continue to be perpetrated.

These are the findings of a report entitled ’They must all leave, or die’, published last week by our organisations.

This report follows several fact-finding missions conducted in the CAR and establishes the responsibilities of the parties to the conflict, namely the anti-Balaka and the Seleka.

“It is a political and ethnic conflict for the control of power which has progressively assumed a religious dimension. Those who are currently giving the orders are in the process of carrying out ethnic cleansing and are committing crimes under international law for which they must be held accountable,” declared Mathias Morouba, Vice-President of the Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de L’homme (OCDH).

The report also denounces a conflict which stems from impunity for the crimes of the past, itself due to the inability of national and international judiciaries to bring the senior perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

Since 5 December 2013 and their offensive against the capital Bangui, the anti-Balaka have been systematically attacking civilians, in particular Muslims.

Over twenty enclaves containing between 15,000 and 20,000 Muslims are currently under siege by anti-Balaka militia, who have taken advantage of the strategic withdrawal of the ex-Seleka to the north and east of the country.

The latter are continuing to perpetrate serious violations of human rights and crimes under international law in these areas.

Among the Seleka, the alleged responsibility of the ex-president Michel Djotodia, his security chief Noureddine Adam and the head of the Janjawid Sudanese militia group, General Moussa Assimeh, appears to be established in the light of the elements set out in the report.

On the anti-Balaka side, the investigations conducted have established the presence and active involvement of a large number of Central African army (FACA) officers and of prominent figures close to the ousted president, François Bozizé.

The instructions issued, the public statements made and the actions undertaken by the anti-Balaka are aimed, for the most part, at provoking insecurity and humanitarian and political chaos in order to facilitate the return of the former president to the Central African political scene on the pretext of ‘me or chaos’.

“The international community must support the African, French and forthcoming UN forces in putting an end to these crimes, protecting the civilian population and bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” declared Karim Lahidji, President of FIDH.

 

Putting an end to impunity

The transitional president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, has recently referred matters to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and created a special investigation unit, the CSEI.

With the support of the international community, this unit is to investigate the human rights violations currently being committed, to identify perpetrators and those responsible for crimes under international law and to institute criminal proceedings leading to the arrest of the leaders of the armed groups who remain active.

For its part, the ICC must open an investigation into the crimes committed in the Central African Republic, which manifestly fall within its mandate.

In addition, on 12 June, the government officially referred to the ICC crimes committed in the CAR since 1 August 2012, given that it did not have the capacity to bring the senior perpetrators to justice.

This decision, which our organisations had long been calling for, is an important first stage.

The Prosecutor must now open an investigation as soon as possible into the serious crimes committed in the CAR.

“The need for justice in the Central African Republic is such that the ICC will not be surplus to requirements in bringing all of the architects and perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” declared Drissa Traoré, Vice-President of FIDH.

In May, sanctions were also imposed by the United Nations Security Council and the President of the United States against five individuals, including the former president, François Bozizé, the coordinator of the anti-Balaka militia, Levy Yakété, and the number two in the former Seleka rebel coalition, Noureddine Adam.

However, these sanctions must be extended to other leading figures and be supported by other states, as well as by the European Union.

For Joseph Bindoumi, President of the Ligue Centrafricaine des Droits de L’homme (LCDH):

“The armed groups, whether Seleka or anti-Balaka, are receiving money and support to conduct this policy of chaos and to set communities off against each other.
National and international judicial authorities must target the perpetrators of the crimes committed but, above all, they must prevent those giving the orders from causing further harm.”

This story has been translated from French.