Ongoing violence by armed groups and government and allied forces leaves populations in the Central African Republic at risk of atrocity crimes.
During December an alliance of predatory armed groups, known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), launched an offensive aimed at preventing general elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) and perpetrated widespread violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). In response, the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) and Internal Security Forces (FSI) – working closely with Russian military instructors – launched a counter-offensive.
Ongoing military operations and attacks by armed groups, as well as transhumance related violence, has led to a human rights and protection crisis. The CPC has killed and abducted civilians, perpetrated sexual violence, forcibly recruited child soldiers and attacked schools, hospitals, humanitarian workers and the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (MINUSCA). Between July 2020 and June 2021 the UN recorded 526 incidents of abuses and violations of human rights and IHL, affecting at least 1,221 victims. During July 64,110 people fled clashes, mainly in Basse-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou and Ouaka prefectures.
During military operations, FACA and FSI troops, as well as Russian military instructors, have reportedly perpetrated summary executions, arbitrary killings, torture, forced disappearances, the occupation of schools and the looting of humanitarian organizations. The majority of conflict-related civilian deaths between February-June resulted from indiscriminate, disproportionate or excessive force by FACA and bilateral forces. These forces have also conducted targeted attacks on ethnic and religious minority communities, particularly members of Muslim communities.
The protracted crisis in CAR has its origins in the overthrow of President François Bozizé in March 2013 by the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance. Abuses by the Séléka led to the formation of predominantly Christian anti-balaka militias and the collapse of state institutions. Anti-balaka and ex-Séléka forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, however, most perpetrators have not been held accountable. Despite a 2019 peace deal that formally ended the 2013–2015 armed conflict, signatories continue to engage in violence and perpetrate widespread human rights abuses. Former President Bozizé, who is under UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions for his role in the conflict, is now leading the CPC.
Over 1.4 million people have fled their homes since 2013. An estimated 2.8 million people – 57 percent of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
Armed groups continue to profit from illegal taxation and arms trafficking. The cross-border flow of foreign fighters, arms and natural resources are fueling the crisis in CAR and contributing to a thriving conflict-economy. Reprisals by FACA directed against certain marginalized populations are bolstering support for armed groups and increasing inter-communal tensions.
Although the 2019 peace agreement was hailed as an opportunity to bring an end to armed conflict in CAR, a climate of impunity has enabled ongoing violence and allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses.
The government requires ongoing international assistance to stabilize the country and uphold its responsibility to protect.
The UNSC has passed 14 resolutions since October 2013 that emphasize the government’s responsibility to protect populations in CAR. A UNSC-mandated sanctions regime and arms embargo have been in place since 2013. On 12 March 2021 the UNSC adopted a resolution increasing the military and police deployment for MINUSCA to support the protection of civilians.
During May 2014 the government referred the situation in CAR to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC currently has three individuals in custody, including two former anti-balaka leaders and one Séléka leader.
On 28 June the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, expressed concern over the situation in CAR, stating that increasing human rights violations, targeted violence against communities and forced displacement could contribute to atrocity risks.
All signatories to the peace agreement must comply with their commitments and refrain from any action limiting the restoration of state authority. Government troops and bilateral security forces must rigorously uphold IHL, ensuring that all civilians are protected and that MINUSCA can effectively carry out its mandate.
All perpetrators of atrocity crimes in CAR should be held legally accountable, regardless of their rank, affiliation or nationality. MINUSCA should continue to investigate IHL violations and share its findings with international partners and the UNSC.