A group of independent UN human rights experts expressed concern [press release, PDF] Tuesday over the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and urged the transitional authorities to take urgent measures to protect the population from atrocity crimes and restore public order. There have been continued reports of gross human rights violations in the CAR since the Seleka rebel alliance [WorldWideConflicts backgrounder] seized the nation's capital in March, including the deliberate killing of civilians, acts of sexual violence against women and children, and the destruction and looting of private property, hospitals, schools and churches. A recent UN report reveals that most of the violations have been committed by Seleka soldiers. As transitional authorities have failed to take adequate measures to prevent further human rights violations, the UN experts also called on the international community to support initiatives by the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of Central African States [official websites] aimed at preventing further human rights violations.
While the international community has yet to engage in a concerted way to prevent atrocities in the Central African Republic, there is still time to take steps to halt the escalation of this crisis and the suffering of the population. The breakdown of law and order and the apparent inability of the transitional authorities to exercise control over Seleka soldiers committing atrocities, could presage a deepening crisis and a return to large scale fighting. This, compounded with other risk factors, including religious tensions, has opened the door to the risk of atrocity crimes.The UN experts urged the world not to forget about the CAR with international attention focused on Syria.
Last month the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) urged [JURIST report] the transitional government to do "its utmost to ensure the protection of IDPs and to facilitate the humanitarian response." Michel Djotodia declared himself the nation's leader in March after the Seleka seized the nation's capital and caused president Francois Bozize [World Biography profile] to flee the country. Djotodia, a leader of Seleka, also dissolved the constitution [JURIST report], parliament and government. Also in March UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] condemned [JURIST report] the coup by the Seleka rebels and advocated for the "swift restoration of constitutional order." The AU also condemned the coup, suspended [Reuters report] the CAR and imposed sanctions against the country. The CAR has also recently been criticized for its controversial use of child soldiers. In January UNICEF [official website] said that it had received "credible reports" of both pro-government and rebel armed groups in the country recruiting and including children [JURIST report] in its conflict. In June of last year the CAR was included in a report issued by Ban detailing the violations committed against children [JURIST report] in conflict zones. The UN Security Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict [official website] in 2011 also expressed concern [JURIST report] about children's rights violations, including rape and other sexual violence as well as recruitment in armed conflict, in the country.