2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Central African Republic
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||19 June 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Central African Republic, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cd9c.html [accessed 30 May 2015]|
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (Tier 3)
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a source and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. While the scope of the trafficking problem is unknown, observers report that most victims appear to be CAR citizens trafficked within the country and that a smaller number move back and forth between Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan. Trafficking offenders – likely including members of expatriate communities from Nigeria, South Sudan, and Chad, as well as transient merchants and herders – subject children to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, and street vending. Within the country, children are at risk of becoming victims of forced labor, Ba'aka (Pygmy) minorities are at risk of becoming victims of forced agricultural work – especially in the region around the Lobaye rainforest – and girls are at risk of being exploited in the sex trade in urban centers.
Human rights observers reported that opposition militia groups in the north of the country continued to recruit and unlawfully use children, some of whom may be trafficking victims, in armed conflict. Observers indicated that the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) still harbor child soldiers. In the spring of 2011, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) became the last large rebel group to sign a ceasefire agreement with the government. In October 2011, APRD signed an action plan with the UN to release its child soldiers and in November, the CPJP signed an action plan on releasing child soldiers with the government and UNICEF. In November 2011, the UFDR orally and publicly reaffirmed its commitment, initially made when it signed its 2007 action plan, to eliminate all use and recruitment of child soldiers. During the reporting period, village self-defense units, which were established by towns to combat armed groups and bandits in areas where the national army or gendarmes were not present, used children as combatants, lookouts, and porters. UNICEF estimated that children comprise one-third of these self-defense units. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operates in eastern regions of the CAR, continued to abduct and enslave South Sudanese, Congolese, Central African, and Ugandan children for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants. The LRA also forced these children to commit atrocities such as looting and burning villages, killing village residents, and abducting other children. Some of these children were also taken back and forth across borders into South Sudan or the DRC.
The Government of the Central African Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government, which has limited human and financial resources, did not investigate and prosecute any trafficking offenses, identify or provide protective services to trafficking victims, or take steps to raise public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking. The 2010 Central African penal code outlaws all forms of trafficking in persons, but awareness of this statute remained low. In July 2011, the government, via the Prime Minister's office, formally launched an inter-ministerial committee – the National Council on Child Protection – to fight child exploitation, including child trafficking; the council implemented aspects of the 2008 National Action Plan for the Prevention and Protection of Abused, Sexually Exploited, and Trafficked Children. The government also increased its annual financial support for a multipurpose child shelter.
Recommendations for Central African Republic: Increase efforts to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers within armed groups and self-defense units; in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the penal code's anti-trafficking provisions to investigate and prosecute these offenses; increase efforts to educate and encourage the public and relevant governmental authorities to identify and report trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls in prostitution, street children, and Ba'aka; and in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, provide care to children in commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor.
The Government of the Central African Republic made no discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 151 of its penal code prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons, and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. If the offense involves a child victim, Article 151 prescribes the additional penalty of hard labor. If the offense involves a child victim of sex trafficking or forced labor similar to slavery, the prescribed penalty is life imprisonment with hard labor. Articles 7 and 8 of the January 2009 Labor Code prohibit forced and bonded labor and prescribe sufficiently stringent penalties of five to 10 years' imprisonment. Victims can file civil suits to seek damages from their traffickers. These provisions, however, are not enforced and no cases of suspected human trafficking offenses were investigated or prosecuted during the reporting period. Traditional dispute resolution methods are widely practiced throughout the country, often to the exclusion of formal legal proceedings to punish criminal acts. The government took no identifiable actions, such as prohibiting the use of child soldiers, to implement the Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, which it signed in June 2010. Law enforcement officials reported that they are not provided the appropriate technical training and resources needed to identify and investigate trafficking cases, and officials outside the capital may not have access to copies of the legal codes.
The government did not make significant efforts to ensure that victims of trafficking received access to protective services during the reporting period. The CAR government did not engage in efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, though the government's presence outside the capital, especially in the diamond-producing northeast, remains limited to non-existent. The government maintained its partnership with UNICEF and NGOs for the protection and reintegration of demobilized child soldiers. During the reporting period, UNICEF, in partnership with local NGOs, worked to reintegrate 900 child soldiers; the government's role in this process was minimal. The government took no action to promote a policy against child soldiering, and did not investigate the use of child soldiers in self-defense militias that may be supported by the government. The government, which has very limited resources, did not directly provide reintegration programs for child soldiers, which left victims susceptible to further exploitation or re-trafficking by armed groups or other traffickers. However, the government provided approximately $70,000 to two multipurpose shelters for children in Bangui – a 27 percent increase over its 2010 financial contribution – and allocated an operating budget of $146,500 for these shelters in its 2012 budget, a 109 percent increase. During 2011, the two centers provided care or assistance to 243 vulnerable children, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. Justice officials claimed that trafficking victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, though no victims were identified during the year. The government does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, and no such victims were identified.
The government undertook moderate anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. In July 2011, under the auspices of the Prime Minister's office, the government launched the National Council for the Protection of Children, which included committees to address specific topics related to child exploitation, including some forms of child trafficking. After its inauguration, the national council implemented aspects of the 2008 National Action Plan for the Prevention and Protection of Abused, Sexually Exploited, and Trafficked Children. The government did not take any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year.