Central African Republic: Rampant Abuses After Coup
Members of the Seleka rebel coalition, which ousted President François Bozizé of the Central African Republic on March 24, 2013, have committed grave violations against civilians, including pillage, summary executions, rape, and tortured, Human Rights Watch reported Friday.
Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch said: “If the Seleka coalition, as it claims, wants to undo the wrongs of the previous government, it should immediately end its horrific abuses.”
He added that the new government should show it is committed to the rule of law by investigating and prosecuting attacks by Seleka troops against civilians.
It reports that when the Seleka took control of Bangui, the rebels went on a looting spree, killing civilians, raping women, and settling scores with members of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA. Many of these killings occurred in urban areas in broad daylight.
Bekele further noted that in late April 2013, Human Rights Watch carried out a 10-day research investigation in Bangui where it spoke with about 70 witnesses, victims, local human rights defenders, journalists, authorities from the previous and new governments, and other sources.
“Human Rights Watch uncovered scores of killings committed by Seleka forces in Bangui, the capital, after the March 24 coup and received credible information about further killings by Seleka troops throughout the country between December 2012 and April,” he revealed.
Meanwhile, some authorities in the new government told Human Rights Watch that the abuses documented had been carried out by former members of the Bozizé government or by “fake Seleka.”
However, Adam Noureddine, State Minister of Public Security revealed that the Seleka maintained control over their troops.
Furthermore, multiple witnesses interviewed by the Human Rights Watch provided compelling evidence, including eyewitness accounts, that Seleka forces were responsible for the majority of abuses against civilians both immediately before and after the coup.
“In addition, Seleka commanders appear not to maintain discipline within their ranks, as Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases in which Seleka rebels killed their own members,” said Bekele.
Human Rights Watch believes that the statements from witnesses establish that the rebels were, on a local level, taking orders from their immediate commanders.
According to its report, one witness to the killing of a fleeing unarmed civilian told Human Rights Watch, “The [local commander] gave the order and then she fired.”
“The government has an obligation to control the rebels who brought it to power, to prevent abuses, and punish those who commit them,” Bekele said.
“Without security, the government will not be able to govern effectively or protect civilians,” he added.
However, the Human Rights Watch calls on the Government of the Central African Republic and the Seleka leadership to restore law and order in the 15 provinces under its control by urgently deploying zone commanders under the leadership of the Public Security and Defense ministries.
It also demands government to: “Reinstate institutions in the entire territory, including the police, and the regular army, publicly declare that the government does not tolerate attacks on civilians and will bring to justice those guilty, and provide access to health and other services for victims of human rights violations, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls who have survived sexual violence.”
Furthermore, the CAR new government was required to: “Investigate and prosecute all persons deemed responsible for the recent abuses, establish the National Commission of Inquiry announced by Presidential Decree n° 13.040 on April 26, 2013, and enable it to promptly, thoroughly, and independently investigate allegations of human rights abuses by all parties, including, but not limited to, the Seleka rebels.”
Human Rights Watch also called upon the United Nations (UN) to effectively monitor and report on the past and ongoing human rights abuses in the CAR, to deploy a monitoring mission to document, investigate, and report on human rights violations committed since December and also include investigators that are trained to document sexual violence.
They also demanded the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, to continue closely monitoring developments in the CAR. Her office in 2007 opened an investigation in the country, following a referral by the Central African Republic government, which is a state party to the ICC.
On April 22, Bensouda said that she was closely scrutinizing “allegations of crimes under the Court’s jurisdiction, including attacks against civilians, murder and pillaging in the Central African Republic.” Pillage, rape, and murder, including by summary execution, all constitute war crimes under the statute of the ICC.
Meanwhile, Seleka means “alliance,” in Sango, Central African Republic’s principal language. It represents a coalition of several rebel forces that came together to address human rights abuses and poverty in the northeastern part of the country.