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Amnesty: UN peacekeepers unprepared to address dangers in CAR

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] (AI) warned [press release] Monday that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) [official website] is insufficiently equipped to handle dangers of instability and deadly violence to civilians in Central African Republic (CAR). AI's investigative report [text] describes how major gaps in personnel and equipment led to the UN peacekeepers' failure to prevent and contain a serious outbreak of violence in Bangui last September that resulted 75 deaths, many of which included civilians, at least a dozen rapes, and the displacement of 42,000 people. AI also found that MINUSCA was unable to respond to some requests from medical personnel to help transfer individuals severely wounded in September. AI is calling for a major review of MINUSCA's capacity to carry out its mandate, covering factors such as training, equipment, coordination and personnel strength. In January the French Minister of Defense announced the withdrawal by the end of the year of a majority of the country's 900 troops present in CAR, adding urgency to such a review. "Ensuring the peacekeeping force is well-equipped to prevent and contain large scale violence, as well as support the government in ensuring justice, must be an absolute priority to help end the cycle of conflict and injustice that has blighted CAR for so much of its history," said Steve Cockburn, AI's Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa. The UN Security Council [official website] will be discussing the renewal of MINUSCA's mandate in April.

Violence has persisted in the CAR since the predominately Muslim-based Seleka rebels ousted former president François Bozize [BBC profile] in March 2013. More than 400,000 people remain displaced due to the violent overthrow, with over a half million more people seeking refuge in other countries. In November UNICEF [child advocacy website] called for [press release] aid to approximately 1.2 million children distressed by conflict [JURIST report] in the CAR. Last January members of a UN investigatory commission reported that crimes against humanity have been widely committed by all parties to the conflict in the CAR, prompting the commission to call for the establishment of an international court [JURIST report] to objectively investigate and prosecute crimes. Earlier that month the UN published a report stating that violent acts committed in the CAR constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity [JURIST report], but not genocide. Despite this finding, members of the international community maintain that there is much work to be done [JURIST op-ed] in the nation. In 2014 the International Criminal Court [official website] opened a second investigation [JURIST report] into CAR war crimes.

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