Publication of the United Nations report on violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the FPRC coalition and the UPC in Haute-Kotto and Ouaka between 21 november 2016 and 21 february 2017
The United Nations published today a report describing violations and abuses of international human rights and violations of humanitarian law committed in the prefectures of Haute-Kotto and Ouaka of the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of armed clashes between rival ex-Seleka factions Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) and Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique(UPC) from 21 November 2016 and 21 February 2017. The events described were the start of the renewed spiralling of the CAR into inter-communal violence that continues to date.
On 21 November 2016, clashes between armed groups, the UPC on one side, and a coalition led by the FPRC on the other, broke out in Bria, the capital of Haute-Kotto Prefecture, in the north-east of the CAR, mainly over the control of territory and natural resources. Fighting between the FPRC and UPC and attacks against civilians, MINUSCA peacekeepers and humanitarian actors subsequently spread to other parts of Haute-Kotto as well as to Ouaka Prefecture.
In December 2016, the town of Bakala, 60 km north-west of Bambari, changed hands several times between the FPRC and UPC and was the scene of massacres of civilians. These events caused significant displacements of the population. While the security of civilians in Bambari has steadily improved since February 2017, fighting shifted to in Basse-Kotto Prefecture, and serious violence erupted in Mbomou Prefecture in the south-east of CAR.
The result of the investigations conducted on site in both Bria and Bakala by the MINUSCA Human Rights Division shows that armed groups killed at least 133 civilians or other protected persons (82 men, 16 women, 10 children and 25 persons of unknown sex and age). MINUSCA was able to attribute 111 of the verified killings to UPC and 22 to the FPRC coalition. HRD also received credible allegations of further fatalities and therefore has reasonable grounds to believe that at least 293 additional civilians (106 men, 23 women, 27 children and 137 persons of unknown sex and age) may have been killed during the period under review: 167 by the UPC and 126 by the FPRC.
Violations and abuses documented by HRD include killings, injuries, abductions, rapes, denial of medical care and humanitarian relief, appropriation or destruction of property, and restrictions to the freedom of movement.
The events in Bria and Bakala demonstrate the highly volatile security situation and the fragility of the peace process in the CAR as well as the vulnerability of civilians targeted by armed groups who act with complete impunity. The security environment throughout the country has deteriorated since the events in Bria and Bakala and is characterized by an increasing number of attacks and by armed groups directly targeting civilians or the organizations that try to assist or protect them. The events covered by the report were followed by a dramatic spread of violence, particularly in the south-east and north-west of the CAR. In Bria (Haute-Kotto), Alindao (Basse-Kotto), Bangassou, (Haut Mbomou), Niem (Nana Mambéré) during the month of May 2017 alone, MINUSCA HRD recorded at least 250 civilian deaths as a result of the violence. Less than half a year after the mass killings in Bakala that the report describes in detail, targeted attacks on whole communities in Alindao left over a hundred people dead over a three-day period in May 2017. These events, are currently the subject of a separate, ongoing MINUSCA investigation.
This report issued today makes several recommendations to the Government of the Central African Republic, the armed groups and the international community, including on the need to fight against impunity for serious violations and abuses of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law by ensuring that thorough criminal investigations are carried out by judicial authorities. The report urges armed groups to cease violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, and calls upon the international community to support measures to hold perpetrators accountable. The events described also show the urgent need for disarming all members and affiliates of armed groups; the importance of promoting inter-communal reconciliation; and the criticality of efforts to restore State authority throughout the country. Indeed, a hallmark of the conflict is the absence and/or weakness of State institutions, including the lack of mechanisms to ensure effective protection of civilians and to address serious human rights abuses.
When the incidents described in the report occurred it was hoped they represented an unfortunate and unacceptable spike in violence. In hindsight, the events merely marked the beginning of increased attacks on the civilian population in the context of clashes between rival armed groups in several parts of the country.
The CAR rapidly approaches the unfortunate one year since the events in Bria and Bakala, which marked the country’s relapse into renewed conflict. Alarms have been raised due to the ethnic and/or religious connotation of the violence committed. MINUSCA calls upon the government of CAR, which has a legal obligation to protect the population, to intensify its efforts for peace, good governance and the rule of law. The protection of civilians cannot be achieved by MINUSCA and by military means alone. Political dialogue, rebuke and marginalization of spoilers, and public condemnation of violence can also protect the population and is indispensable for building sustainable peace. Lastly, MINUSCA again urges armed groups to respect the laws that should guide their conduct, failing which their leaders and fighters will be held accountable.
Violations and abuses of Human Rights and Violations of International Humanitarian Law by FPRC coalition and the UPC in Haute-Koto and Ouaka between 21 November 2016 and 21 February 2017)
Musa Gassama, Head of MINUSCA Human Rights Division and Representative of the High Commission for Human Rights Tel: +236 75980012 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org