Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Central African Republic
|Publication Date||13 May 2011|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Central African Republic, 13 May 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dce157757.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
Head of state: François Bozizé
Head of government: Faustin Archange Touadéra
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 4.5 million
Life expectancy: 47.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 196/163 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 54.6 per cent
Elections planned for April and October were postponed until January 2011. In October 2010 the independent electoral commission announced that the voter census had been completed successfully. However, election officials were abducted and held hostage by armed groups in parts of the country. Leaders of opposition parties, including the President of the Liberation Movement for the People of Central Africa (MLPC), were subjected to harassment and prevented from travelling abroad, without explanation.
As much as two thirds of the country was beyond the control of the government. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes because of armed attacks, and as many as 200,000 remained internally displaced. There were also about 200,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.
The north-west of the country was under the effective control of the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), an armed group which had signed a peace agreement with the government but not disarmed. In the south-east and east the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) increased the number and severity of its attacks.
The AU announced in October the formation of a joint military force, with troops provided by the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan and Uganda, to fight the LRA, which had moved to the CAR, DRC and Southern Sudan after being ousted from northern Uganda.
In May, US President Barack Obama signed a law committing his government to help the CAR and other countries in the region to eliminate the threat posed to them by the LRA. In June, members of US Special Forces visited south-eastern CAR to assess potential assistance to the CAR government against the LRA. In November, President Obama submitted to the US Congress a "Strategy to Support the Disarmament of the Lord's Resistance Army".
In May, the UN Security Council decided to end the mandate of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) after the Chadian government asked for the peacekeepers to be withdrawn. The 4,375-strong force was to pull out from the two countries in stages by the end of 2010.
A 500-strong peacekeeping force known as the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in Central African Republic (MICOPAX) continued to be deployed under the aegis of the Economic Community of Central African States.
The Ugandan army continued to deploy thousands of troops in the east of the country.
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the DRC, started in November. In October, an appeals panel at the court in The Hague had rejected an appeal from his lawyers to dismiss the case, the final obstacle to starting the trial. The ICC said that Jean-Pierre Bemba would face two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes. He is accused of leading militias in the CAR in 2002 and 2003 that killed and raped civilians.
Abuses by armed groups
Armed groups killed and injured civilians with impunity in parts of the country affected by the armed conflict. Other abuses frequently reported included rape of women and girls, looting and burning down of homes, granaries and shops. Widespread insecurity in the region made it very difficult for human rights and humanitarian organizations to establish the number of victims and the identity of the perpetrators.
The APRD mounted roadblocks and extorted "taxes" in the north of the country.
According to Jean-Jacques Demafouth, political leader of the APRD, Souleymane Garga, President of the National Federation of Central African Cattlekeepers, had been killed in April 2009 by or on the orders of an APRD commander in Paoua. The APRD reportedly paid compensation to Souleymane Garga's family, and the family accepted the APRD's apologies.
The LRA carried out hundreds of attacks in the CAR, abducting people, including girls, looting and pillaging, and killing hundreds of civilians.
On 4 July, the LRA attacked Mada-Bazouma near the town of Bangassou. According to reports, four people, two of them women, were mutilated; seven, including a 14-year-old girl, were abducted, while a military detachment stationed some 15km away did not arrive until the following day.
A spokesman for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said that LRA rebels attacked the northern town of Birao on 10 October, abducting young girls, looting property and setting shops on fire. He added that the LRA had already carried out more than 240 deadly attacks in 2010, killing at least 344 people.
The Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), one of the armed groups that refused to sign a peace agreement with the government, was accused of rapes, killings, looting and extortion in north-eastern CAR.
On 30 October, members of the CPJP abducted 21 census agents who were updating voters' rolls for elections planned for late October. The agents were reportedly seized as they approached the town of Birao and their records were destroyed.
The Ugandan army maintained its presence in the east of the country. In January, it reportedly killed Bok Abudema, second-in-command of the LRA, north of the town of Djema. A Ugandan soldier shot dead a young CAR national and injured his father in October.
Police and security forces
Government forces were responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights violations in areas of the country where they were engaged in conflict with armed groups. The government was also responsible for arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment.
Two sisters of Hassan Ousman, leader of the former rebel movement, National Movement for the Salvation of the Homeland (MNSP), were arrested in March. They had been searching for information about their brother, who disappeared in December 2009. Hassan Ousman was the Chair of the Subcommittee on Security and Armed Forces of the Dialogue Follow-up Committee. His two sisters were charged with espionage and collaboration with a foreign power.
Charles Massi, a former government minister and leader of the CPJP, disappeared in January. He was believed to have been tortured to death by government forces. He had been handed over to the CAR authorities by members of the Chadian security forces.
Prisoners of conscience
Suspected critics of the government, and their associates and relatives, were imprisoned on false charges.
Eleven people were detained in June because they had links to a lawyer and a businessman sought for arrest by the authorities. Symphorien Balemby, President of the CAR Bar Association, and businessman Jean-Daniel Ndengou fled the country when they were publicly accused of responsibility for the burning of a privately owned supermarket in the capital, Bangui, on 9 June. The 11 detainees included Albertine Kalayen Balemby, wife and secretary to Symphorien Balemby, and Gabin Ndengou, brother of Jean-Daniel Ndengou and a driver for the World Health Organization. The detainees were reported to have been charged with arson, incitement to hatred and criminal association, but Amnesty International considered them prisoners of conscience, falsely charged because of their association with the two men.
Human rights defender Lewis-Alexis Mbolinani, Co-ordinator of the NGO Youth United for Environmental Protection and Community Development (JUPEDEC), remained in detention without trial until late March. He had been arrested in December 2009 by members of the Research and Investigation Division (SRI) of the police, and falsely accused of collaborating with the LRA. He was released provisionally in April, and after his release, he said that he had been tortured in detention. In October, the Bangui High Court Prosecutor declared that Lewis-Alexis Mbolinani had no case to answer.
Torture and killings of people accused of witchcraft
Women and men accused of witchcraft were frequently subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, or even killed. Government and security officials condoned the accusations and the ill-treatment, and took no action to protect the victims or bring those responsible for abuses to justice.
Betty Kimbembe, the 35-year-old mother of a four-month-old baby, and two men were severely beaten in April by government soldiers and a son of President Bozizé, reportedly after the president's son accused them of witchcraft.
Fourteen people were sentenced to death in their absence for murder by the Bangui Criminal Court. No other death sentences or executions were reported.