Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Central African Republic
|Publication Date||24 May 2012|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Central African Republic, 24 May 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fbe39490.html [accessed 29 January 2015]|
Head of state: François Bozizé
Head of government: Faustin Archange Touadéra
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 4.5 million
Life expectancy: 48.4 years
Under-5 mortality: 170.8 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 55.2 per cent
The human rights situation remained dire as the Central African Republic (CAR) continued to be ravaged by conflict involving numerous armed groups. The civilian population was subjected to widespread human rights abuses, including unlawful killings, abductions, torture and sexual violence, including rape.
President Bozizé was re-elected in January, beating his nearest rival, former President Ange-Félix Patassé, with more than 60 per cent of the vote. The provisional results issued by the Independent Electoral Commission were confirmed by the Constitutional Court in February.
A significant proportion of the CAR was beyond the control of the government. At least 200,000 people were internally displaced, having been forced to flee their homes because of attacks, while about 200,000 refugees lived in neighbouring countries.
The north-west of the CAR 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. In the south-east and east, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) increased the number and severity of its attacks.
In mid-July, members of the Union of Democratic Forces for the Rally (UFDR) attacked and occupied the north-eastern town of Sam Ouandja. The UFDR, an armed group based in Haute-Kotto province, claimed that it was in retaliation for attacks on its positions by the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP). Hundreds of people were displaced by fighting between CPJP and UFDR armed groups in September.
Between June and August, three CPJP factions signed peace agreements with the government, although their fighters continued to be armed.
US President Barack Obama announced in October that he had sent about 100 US troops to central Africa, including the CAR, to help and advise government forces battling the LRA.
As many as 200 French government soldiers continued to be deployed in the CAR, helping to restructure and train the government's armed forces.
Under the responsibility of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in the Central African Republic (MICOPAX) established a presence in Ndélé, in the north-east, in February. The contingent was composed of soldiers from Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Ugandan army continued to deploy thousands of troops in the east of the CAR. A Ugandan field court-martial found a Ugandan soldier guilty of murdering a civilian in Obo and sentenced him to death in August.
Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration
In January, President Bozizé appointed six leaders of various armed groups as his advisers on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), although it was unclear whether they took up their positions. At the end of July, the government minister responsible for DDR said that demobilization of members of the APRD was taking place in Ouham-Pendé province. He reportedly added that a similar operation would soon start in the north-east. CPJP factions signed peace agreements with the government during the year.
The trial of Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continued before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He faced two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes, accused of leading militias in the CAR in 2002 and 2003 that killed and raped civilians.
No other government or armed group leaders who may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the CAR were issued with an arrest warrant by the ICC or prosecuted by the national justice system.
Abuses by armed groups
Armed groups abused civilians with impunity in large parts of the CAR affected by armed conflict. Civilians were killed and injured, women and girls were raped, and homes, granaries and shops were looted and destroyed. The levels of insecurity made it very difficult for human rights and humanitarian organizations to establish details of these incidents.
The APRD maintained effective control in the north-west of the country. In January, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons expressed concern that the APRD had been responsible for summary justice and that trials were carried out in an arbitrary manner. He reported that in May 2010 the APRD had executed five people convicted of witchcraft by people's tribunals – informal courts operated and run by the APRD.
On 30 January, suspected members of the APRD abducted eight workers with the Spanish section of Médecins Sans Frontières who were travelling in a vehicle close to the CAR/Chad border. Six were found and released two days later, but two Spanish nationals were held until 10 February.
The LRA carried out hundreds of attacks in the CAR, abducting people, including girls, looting and pillaging, and killing hundreds of civilians.
In March, members of the LRA reportedly killed at least two civilians and four government soldiers, and abducted as many as 50 people, in the area of Nzako in Mbomou province. LRA fighters also reportedly looted private property and burned many houses. The previous month, LRA fighters had reportedly attacked and occupied Nzako for several hours before leaving the area with at least 10 abducted civilians and looted property.
In June, LRA fighters reportedly killed a doctor and his driver during an ambush on a vehicle carrying polio vaccines. The attack took place on the road between Zémio and Rafaï in Haut-Mbomou province. According to Radio Ndeke Luka, the attackers burned the vehicle and all its contents.
The CPJP was accused of rapes, killings, looting and extortion in north-eastern CAR.
In September, CPJP fighters killed seven people, including a government official, near Bria.
In a report issued in April, the UN Secretary-General expressed grave concern about the recruitment and use of children as fighters by armed groups between June 2008 and December 2010.
The report identified several armed groups that continued to use children. They included the UFDR, CPJP, the Central African People's Democratic Front (FDPC), the Movement of Central African Liberators for Justice (MLCJ) and local self-defence militias associated with the government. The report also highlighted the abduction and forced recruitment of children by the LRA in the CAR and neighbouring countries, and their use in the CAR; the LRA was known to use children as fighters, spies, servants, sex slaves and carriers.
The UN Secretary-General welcomed the removal of 1,300 children from within the ranks of the APRD between 2008 and 2010. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict visited the CAR in November.
Prisoners of conscience
Suspected critics of the government, and their associates and relatives, were imprisoned on false charges.
Eleven people remained in detention, despite a court order for their release in July. They were arrested in June 2010 because they had links to a lawyer and a businessman sought by the authorities. Symphorien Balemby, President of the CAR Bar Association, and businessman Jean-Daniel Ndengou fled the country in June 2010. The 11 detainees included Albertine Kalayen Balemby, wife of 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. Amnesty International considered them prisoners of conscience.
Freedom of expression – journalists
A climate of self-censorship was prevalent in the news media.
In July, Faustin Bambou, editor of the weekly Les Collines de l'Oubangui, and Cyrus Emmanuel Sandy, editor of the daily Médias, were fined and released from custody after being held for weeks in connection with their coverage of public protests by retired military officers claiming the government had deprived them of EU funds. The prosecution had sought three-year prison terms and higher fines on charges of "inciting hatred" and "endangering the security of the state".
Several members of the opposition and at least one journalist were barred without explanation from travelling out of the country.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Members of the security forces were accused of torture; the government took no action against those accused of torture in previous years.
In August, a supermarket worker in the capital, Bangui, who had been accused of theft, was severely beaten and had his right arm broken by members of the Central African Office for the Repression of Banditry in Bangui.