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CAR armed groups committing war crimes: HRW

[JURIST] Armed groups have been committing war crimes in the Central African Republic (CAR) [UN materials], according to a report [summary] released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] detailing violence in three central provinces between November 2014 and April 2017. During that time period, HRW documented at least 566 civilian deaths at the hands of the Seleka and anti-balaka groups. Armed groups also destroyed no fewer than 4,207 homes, forcing people to flee the area and causing the deaths of 144 children and elderly people. Those responsible for the deaths have not been "detained, arrested or otherwise held accountable" and are still free to roam the areas where their crimes occurred. In addition to seeking international support for improved civilian protection, the report also asks the UN and other individual governments to back the Special Criminal Court (SCC) financially and politically. Although President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has praised the SCC, the government has "lagged in steps to operationalize" it. The SCC, an institution within the CAR's justice system with international judges and prosecutors, has the "unique chance to hold accountable the perpetrators of these grave crimes."

Violence has persisted in the CAR since the predominately Muslim-based Seleka rebels ousted former president François Bozize in March 2013. In June a UN human rights expert warned [JURIST report] that the CAR "must act now" to protect its population and implement justice. In May a report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights claimed that human rights violations within the CAR may amount to war crimes [JURIST report]. In January Amnesty International reported that perpetrators of war crimes have not been prosecuted [JURIST report] or investigated for their crimes. The rights organization urged that the country's justice system needs to be reconstructed and a Special Criminal Court, tasked with trying suspected war criminals, and a witness protection program must be established. In November UNICEF called for aid to approximately 1.2 million children distressed by conflict [JURIST report] in the CAR.

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