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Central African Republic

    May 23, 2014

    The interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR), Catherine Samba-Panza, must ensure that changes in the makeup of the government do not result in a situation where people suspected of crimes under international law may use government roles to enjoy impunity, said Amnesty International today.

    The organization is also calling on president Samba-Panza to guarantee that those suspected of involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious human rights abuses are investigated and held to account in fair trials.

    “Amnesty International considers that individuals reasonably suspected of having committed crimes under international law or human rights abuses should not be allowed to hold positions of authority where they could repeat their crimes or abuses,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.

    April 11, 2014

    Background

    The Seleka militia (meaning “alliance” in Sango, the national language) was responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the course of 2013. After a murderous rampage that started in the north-east, the Seleka spread out across the country, seizing the capital Bangui and ousting then-President François Bozizé in March 2013. Over the following 10 months, Seleka forces killed countless civilians, burned numerous villages, and looted thousands of homes. (See Amnesty International, CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control, AFR 19/003/2013.)

    April 02, 2014

    The European Union (EU)’s deployment of up to 1,000 troops must only be the beginning of the international community’s renewed response to the violence and ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic (CAR), Amnesty International said as a key EU-Africa Summit opened in Brussels today.

    For months now, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, as well as war crimes and crimes against humanity, being perpetrated in the CAR have demanded a swift and robust response. The EU military operation, EUFOR RCA, is expected to deploy soon and is intended as a “bridging mission” to support the existing 8,000 African Union and French troops until a full-fledged UN peacekeeping force can deploy later this year.

    “The Central African Republic is gripped by a human rights and humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. By failing to respond more robustly and urgently, the international community has shown a callous disregard for the country’s embattled civilians, abandoning them in their moment of need,” said Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International.

    March 26, 2014

    The European Union (EU) must immediately put into action its plans to deploy peacekeeping troops to protect civilians in the Central African Republic amid a worrying new surge in violence, Amnesty International said today.

    Areas of the capital Bangui have increasingly come under the control of anti-balaka militias, who have in recent days launched repeated attacks on civilians and African Union-led MISCA peacekeepers.

    “This flare-up in violence is cause for serious concern, given the backdrop of ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity across the Central African Republic since last December,” said Christian Mukosa, Central Africa Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “It is just further evidence of what Amnesty International has been saying for months – that the small contingent of peacekeeping troops on the ground will not be able to protect civilians effectively without more help from the international community.”

    February 28, 2014

    Members of the UN Security Council, including France, the US and UK must throw their full weight behind proposals to tackle the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), said Amnesty International.

    The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to present his assessment report on the possible transformation of the African-led peacekeeping force in CAR into a UN peacekeeping mission before 5 March.

    “It is urgent that the Security Council authorizes this UN peacekeeping operation. They must be given a robust mandate to protect civilians,” said Netsanet Belay, Africa Director Research and Advocacy.

    Amnesty International’s successive missions to CAR have revealed how the African led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA) is under-resourced and ill equipped.  Its poor coordination with French troops (Sangari’s) has failed to end the killings of civilians and the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim community from large parts of the country.

    “Current efforts to tackle the crisis are far from adequate and the new UN mission must have the capability to tackle this crisis,” said Belay.

    February 14, 2014

     An 11 year old Muslim girl has been found hiding alone in a village west of Bangui surrounded by bodies and without any food or water following a massacre four days ago.

    The traumatised girl had been in hiding since the brutal killing of her parents and neighbours. Nearby, dogs were feeding on some of the corpses. The bodies of more than 20 villagers who had been left lying on the streets.

    Amnesty International’s team found the girl in the village of Bouguere, west of Bangui, in the Central African Republic. She has been taken to a secure location.

    “The girl was crouching in a corner in an abandoned, ransacked house. She was terrified and could barely speak. She had been hiding there since the massacre, four days before,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

    “She had not drunk or eaten anything and was too weak to even stand up. She was the only Muslim survivor in the village. The others had either fled or been killed.

    February 12, 2014

    Released Midnight 11 February  2014 GMT

    International peacekeepers have failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians in the western part of the Central African Republic, Amnesty International said in a report issued today.

    To protect the country’s remaining Muslim communities, international peacekeeping forces must break the control of anti-balaka militias and station sufficient troops in towns where Muslims are threatened.

    “Anti-balaka militias are carrying out violent attacks in an effort to ethnically cleanse Muslims in the Central African Republic,” said Joanne Mariner, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

    “The result is a Muslim exodus of historic proportions.”

    Amnesty International criticized the international community’s tepid response to the crisis, noting that international peacekeeping troops have been reluctant to challenge anti-balaka militias, and slow to protect the threatened Muslim minority.

    January 28, 2014

    The African Union (AU) Heads of State meeting starting tomorrow must address the growing crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). They must ensure they complete the full and rapid deployment of peacekeepers to protect civilians in rural areas at risk of imminent attack.

    Over the last week Amnesty International has gathered first-hand information of large scale slaughter of both Christian and Muslim civilians in the North-West CAR. The presence of international peacekeepers in these areas is essential to help prevent further atrocities, particularly as rival militias converge on this region. 

    “There is a real danger of further escalation of what is already a human disaster. The peacekeeping forces have had an effect where they are deployed, but there are large swathes of the North West where there is a notable absence. Here towns have been attacked and there is a real risk of further atrocities.” said Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser Donatella Rovera who is currently in the region. 

    January 26, 2014

    Christian and Muslim civilians in Baoro and Bossemptle in the north-west of the Central African Republic are in imminent danger of attack due to the very strong presence of anti-balaka militias in towns where international peacekeepers are nowhere to be seen, according to an Amnesty International delegation in the region today.

    Armed clashes between anti-balaka militias and remnants of the ex-Seleka forces and their supporters over the last week have resulted in civilian fatalities and casualties, as well as the burning of hundreds of homes. 

    “There is a huge risk of a major human tragedy because of the complete absence of any peacekeeping force. The situation in this part of the Central African Republic is very volatile and the international peacekeeping effort is vital to protect the thousands of civilians from both communities,” said Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser Donatella Rovera who is currently in the region.  

    January 24, 2014

    New evidence of the slaughter of women, children and the elderly gathered by Amnesty International underscores the extreme dangers faced by the Muslim minority in the Central African Republic. The organization is calling for a more robust peacekeeping effort to protect civilians outside of the capital.

    More than 50 Muslims were killed in two attacks investigated by Amnesty International in villages north-west of the capital, Bangui. The victims include at least six children, five women, and three old men. Two girls, aged seven and 18 months, were the youngest victims; the oldest was 70.

    “International peacekeeping forces are failing the Muslim community,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s senior crisis advisor in Bangui. “Scores of people were left unprotected from vicious anti-balaka reprisals at a time when such attacks were entirely predictable.”

    Both attacks were carried out by Christian anti-balaka militias, which now wield effective power in many of the towns and villages northwest of the capital.

    January 21, 2014
    Muslim women and children take shelter in a church in Boali, north of the country's capital Bangui.© ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International. 

    In the small town of Boali, 100km north of the capital Bangui, the Muslim neighbourhoods are eerily silent, completely empty of their inhabitants. Every single home has been thoroughly looted. Even the front doors have been removed and carted away.

    Most of the Muslim residents have fled the town, forcibly displaced by vicious attacks carried out by so-called anti-balaka militias. We found more than 800 people who have not yet managed to leave. They are sheltering in the local church, where an impressive young priest is leading by example of inter-faith and neighbourly solidarity.One young man told us about an anti-balaka attack in Boali on Friday 17 January which left five dead and 20 injured. He recounted how, at around mid-day young men armed with machetes burst into the family home.

    January 20, 2014

    The new interim President of the Central African Republic must urgently rein in the “out of control” anti-balaka militias currently forcing scores of people from Muslim communities to leave the country in a bid to escape terrifying abuse, Amnesty International said.

    Catherine Samba Panza was appointed by the interim parliament as interim President of the African nation today.

    “People from Muslim communities feel totally unprotected from anti-balaka attacks and terrified about what might happen to them if they stay in the country. Even those who were born in the Central African Republic and have never set foot outside of the country are now trying to escape to Chad,” said Joanne Mariner Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International, who is currently in the Central African Republic.

    “Reining in the anti-balaka militia and ensuring the Muslim population is safe from attack must be a top priority for interim president Catherine Samba Panza.”

    Over the past ten days, it has been reported that hundreds of Muslims have been victims of attacks, including unlawful killings, with many being forced to leave their homes.

    January 10, 2014

    The resignation of the Central African Republic’s interim President, Michel Djotodia, risks exacerbating the risk to civilian lives, and indicates the urgent need for increased peacekeeping forces in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    The African Union’s failure to fulfil its promise to deploy a full contingent of peacekeeping forces to the country means the size of the peacekeeping force is insufficient to protect a highly vulnerable population.

    “More than a month after the UN vote there are still fewer than 4,000 African Union troops, in addition to the 1,200 French troops. In the meantime more than a thousand lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands are still trapped in camps for displaced people, too afraid to go home.”

    “Tensions are going to be particularly high in the Central African Republic in the wake of the interim President’s resignation, highlighting the desperate need for increased protection for the civilian population,” said Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor. 

    December 18, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 19 December 2013

    War crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed in the Central African Republic, Amnesty International said at the close of a two-week mission to the country.

    The organization is calling for the rapid deployment of a robust UN peacekeeping force with a clear mandate to protect civilians – and sufficient resources to do so effectively.

    “Our in-depth research on the ground in the Central African Republic over the past two weeks has left no room for doubt that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed by all parties to the conflict,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s Central Africa expert.

    “Crimes that have been committed include extrajudicial executions, mutilation of bodies, intentional destruction of religious buildings such as mosques, and the forced displacement of massive numbers of people.”

    The three-person Amnesty International delegation has documented the violations and abuses that have taken place since violence erupted on 5 December in the capital, Bangui, with an early morning attack by anti-balaka militia.

    December 16, 2013

    Susanna Flood, Director of Media at Amnesty International, blogs from Bangui

    Her voice began to choke and then the tears began to flow down her face as she calmly and steadily recounted the long list of names of all the women and children killed in her village when the anti-balaka struck a week ago.

    Sitting in a darkened hospital ward at the Hôpital Communautaire, she gracefully removed her headscarf and revealed the stitches laced across her scalp where the machete had struck. Alongside her was her four-year-old daughter with a matching wound on her head, also the victim of machete attacks.

    Nearly everyone in her village near Bangui, the Central African Republic’s capital city, had been wiped out in these early strikes by the anti-balaka militia who unleashed the carnage that has since been wrought on Bangui.  

    We met her one week after she had suffered those attacks and she told us what happened in her village with amazing calm and dignity. In her ward were numerous women also recovering from the various machete and bullet wounds inflicted by unknown attackers in the violence that has run riot across Bangui and the nearby villages.

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