Central African Republic: "They must all leave or die."
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
24 June 2014
War crimes and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated in the Central African Republic (CAR) and continue to be, state our organisations in a report published today. This report follows several fact-finding missions conducted in the CAR and establishes the responsibilities of the various parties to the conflict, the anti-Balaka and the Seleka. The Central African President has just seized the International Criminal Court (ICC) and has recently established a special investigation unit, the CSEI. Our organisations welcome this progress in favour of the fight against impunity for which they had advocated and call on the international community to support the investigations of the CSEI and of the ICC.
"It is a political and ethnic struggle for power, which has gradually taken on a religious dimension. But those who give the orders today will be held responsible for this ethnic cleansing and the international crimes they are committing," declared Me Mathias Morouba, vice-chairman of the OCDH.
This report, entitled "They must all leave or die", denounces also a conflict which takes its roots in the impunity of the crimes of the past. Because the national and international justice systems’ have been incapable of judging those most responsible for these crimes and who are today at the heart of the conflict.
Since 5 December 2013 and their offensive on the capital, Bangui, the anti-Balaka have been systematically attacking civilians, in particular Muslims. More than twenty enclaves containing between 15,000 and 20,000 Muslims are currently under siege by the anti-Balaka militia, who have benefited from the strategic withdrawal of the former Seleka to the north and the east of the country, where they continue to perpetrate serious human-rights violations and international crimes.
Amongst the Seleka, the presumed responsibilities of the former president, Michel Djotodia, his head of intelligence, Noureddine Adam, and the head of the Sudanese Janjaweed militia who ransacked and pillaged Darfour, General Moussa Assimeh seem established in light of the elements contained in the report. The presence among the Seleka of Abdoulaye Miskine, whose real name is Martin Koumtamadji, former head of the presidential guard under the presidency of Ange-Félix Patassé and allegedly responsible for the massacre in the cattle market in the PK12 district of Bangui in 2002, shows to what extent the current conflict in the CAR is also a ’conflict of impunity’.
As for the anti-Balaka, the investigations carried out have established the presence and the activism amongst them of numerous officers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and of people close to the deposed president, François Bozizé. Most of the instructions given, the demands made and the actions carried out by the anti-Balaka are aimed at causing security, humanitarian and political chaos in order to enable the former president to return to the political scene in the CAR under the pretext of ’me or chaos’.
“The international community must support African, French and soon UN forces in putting an end to these crimes, protect civilians and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice," declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
In May 2014 the United Nations Security Council and the President of the United States imposed sanctions on five individuals, of which the former president, François Bozizé, the coordinator of the anti-Balaka militia, Levy Yakété, and the number two in the former rebel Seleka coalition, Noureddine Adam. FIDH, the LCDH and the OCDH had also presented the result of their investigations to representatives of the international community in April 2014. According to the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, these sanctions are a "strong message that impunity will not be tolerated and that those who threaten the stability of the Central African Republic will have to face the consequences. We urge all the parties to put an end to the violence and ensure that justice is done and that those who have committed human rights violations are called to account,". FIDH, LCDH and OCDH call for these sanctions to be extended to other individuals and to be endorsed by other States and the European Union.
"The armed groups, both the Seleka and the anti-Balaka, receive instructions, money and support to implement this policy of chaos and set communities against one another. National and international justice must target the perpetrators of the crimes committed but in particular must ensure that those responsible, those who give the orders, can do no further harm, in order to put an end to the acts of violence currently taking place," declared Joseph Bindoumi, chairman of the LCDH.
Our organizations furthermore welcome the presidential decree creating the CSEI, which our organizations had recommended in February 2014, and passed on 9 April 2014. The CSEI must, with the support of the international community, investigate the current acts of violence, establish who is responsible for them and for the international crimes committed and order the arrest of the leaders of the armed groups that are still active.
"The creation of a CSEI (special investigation unit) in the CAR is a sign of the transition authorities’ political will to make combating impunity a priority and put an end to the international crimes that are still taking place even now. Those mainly responsible for these crimes must be prosecuted," declared Me Patrick Baudouin, coordinator of the Legal Action Group and FIDH Honorary President.
The establishment of the CSEI does not prevent the International Criminal Court (ICC) from prosecuting the crimes perpetrated in the CAR, which without any doubt come under its jurisdiction. The CAR government, considering its own incapacity to judge those most responsible, has in fact officially seized the ICC on 12 June regarding the crimes perpetrated in CAR since 1 August 2012. This decision, long requested by our organizations is a major first step. The Prosecutor must now rapidly open an investigation on the serious crimes committed in the CAR.
“The need for justice in the CAR is such that we will need both national justice and the ICC to be able to try all the perpetrators and those responsible for these crimes," declared Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice President.
Reminder of the facts:
-In September 2012 Central African armed groups within the Seleka coalition launched an attack in the north of the country.
-On 24 March 2013, after four months of intensive fighting, the Seleka coalition led by Michel Djotodia took the capital, Bangui, and deposed François Bozizé, who had seized power in a coup d’état in 2003.
-During the Summer of 2013 armed pro-Bozizé self-defence groups, the anti-Balaka, launched increasingly frequent attacks on the Seleka and on Muslims, whom they identify with the Seleka.
-On 5 December 2013 the anti-Balaka led a coordinated surprise attack on Bangui on the eve of the deployment of French forces in operation Sangaris, which had been authorized by United Nations Security Council resolution 2127, the aim of which was to help the African force (MISCA), which had been unable to put an end to the massacre of civilians.
-On 9 January 2014, under pressure from the international community, Michel Djotodia stepped down and the Seleka withdrew from the south and the west of the country to regroup in the north and east. The anti-Balaka militia took advantage of this withdrawal to launch systematic attacks on people, mainly Muslims, whom they accused of complicity with and support for the Seleka.
-Since January 2013 the conflict has resulted in nearly 3,000 dead, thousands of wounded, hundreds of victims of sexual crimes and more than a million displaced persons.
Read the report here.