Central African Republic / A country in the grip of Séléka rebels: The international community urgently needs to mobilise to protect the population

A fact-finding mission carried out in the Central African Republic (CAR) from 4th to 13th July 2013, has found that, over three months after the rebel leaders took power, the entire country is in the hands of Séléka rebels led by Central African, Chadian and Sudanese warlords.. Originally estimated to consist of some 5,000 members, the rebel group is now believed to be three to four times larger. Its members continue to commit crimes serious enough to be considered war crimes. FIDH states that, with the current state of decline of state services and of the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC), the safety of the population cannot be guaranteed.

Despite the difficulty in measuring the exact magnitude of the situation since the coup d’état of 24 March 2013, information collected has led FIDH to estimate that up to 400 murders have been committed by Séléka elements. During its mission, FIDH collected many testimonies regarding civilians killed by gunfire. It focused on the 28 June 2013 killings in Gobongo, in which Séléka elements opened fire on a crowd full of men, women, and children, killing at least six civilians and wounding dozens of others. The individuals were protesting the murder of a young boy from their neighbourhood. Since July, the gunfire in the capital has decreased following the decision of the FOMAC and authorities to carry out a forced disarmament of Séléka elements and to conduct joint FOMAC / Séléka patrols in Bangui. However, the mission noted that the Séléka are numerous and still heavily armed, and that some are child soldiers.

FIDH also confirms the high number of rapes committed by Séléka elements in Bangui. A reliable source documented 82 cases of rape within the first month of the arrival of the rebels, but this number is not accurate as it does not cover all the facts. Moreover, numerous cases of civilians kidnapped by Séléka were reported, as were cases of intimidation, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention.

FIDH also collected testimony regarding the burning of villages by Séléka members. FIDH went to the Mbre-Kaga-Bondoro route where, on 14 April 2013, rebels burned 270 houses killing six people in six different villages in retaliation for the murder of one of their own.

Further, while rebel leaders profited from the systematic looting of CAR’s public and private properties that took place in the days following the coup d’état, Séléka soldiers have continued to commit robberies and extortion as they remain unpaid.

FIDH confirms that these crimes have been committed with complete impunity. In the provinces where Séléka holds full power and State is entirely absent, no justice is given. During the mission in Bangui, only 16 detention warrants were confirmed by Public prosecutor. Those Séléka members who are arrested by FOMAC or police officers are, for the most part, only confined to detention centres for disciplinary action, but no legal proceedings are pursued.

The CAR authorities are currently unable to ensure security for the population through the restoration of a security force, and is further unable to fight against the impunity of those committing the most serious crimes. The coffers are empty. An institutional crisis around a constitutional transition charter has paralyzed the exercise of the already collapsing power in Bangui and even more in the provinces. The lastest development in the struggle for sharing the authority was the dismissal of the powerful rebel leader Dhaffane, who has been illegally detained in the Head of State residence since 30 June 2013.

Under these circumstances, FOMAC forces and mandates are clearly insufficient to protect the population. Of the 1000 FOMAC soldiers currently in RCA, the largest contingent is the Chadian one, which does not reassure the population, and the only three provincial garrisons - Poua, Kaga-Bandoro and Ndele - have a far too limited territorial capacity. As for the French Boali operation, it only patrols in Bangui and its mandate is limited to the security of the airport and French nationals.

"Ensuring the protection of the population is an essential and urgent requirement, which the current security system does not guarantee. The civilian population is left in the hands of Séléka criminals. The persistence of anarchy in the Central African Republic may weaken the country even more, increase tensions and impede economic recovery", said Eric Plouvier, FIDH head of mission. "The large number of armed men in CAR is also a potential source of destabilisation for security of the sub-region," he added.

FIDH calls on the International Community to make the protection of the civilian population its main priority with regard to the situation in RCA. The United Nations and the African Union must commit to the establishment of an international force whose mandate and budget would guarantee the protection of the population across the country. This new force should be followed by observers to ensure its mandate is carried out according to international human rights laws.

FIDH calls on the International community to adopt sanction measures against Séléka leaders and warlords, including the freezing of financial assets.

FIDH calls for an effective disarmament operation on Séléka and the redeployment of State authority across the territory.

Considering the fight against impunity of most serious crimes perpetrators is a sine qua non condition for security. FIDH calls on the intervention of the International Criminal Court and/or the establishment of a mixed jurisdiction body to ensure justice.

FIDH finally calls on the transitional authorities to ensure respect of the international law of human rights through the implementation of its institutions, the adoption of its laws, and the achievement of its policies.

FIDH will publish the full report of its fact-finding mission in RCA in the coming weeks.

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