GENEVA, Switzerland, February 19, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — As atrocities continue to occur in the Central African Republic, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday reminded leaders in positions of authority that they have legal obligations and will be held personally accountable for the serious human rights violations committed in CAR, which may amount to crimes against humanity, as a result of their actions or omissions.
“Although the overall situation seems slightly calmer in Bangui, reports of more killings and violence continue. The recent assassination of a member of Parliament after he called for those responsible for committing human rights violations to be arrested is an extremely worrying development, as it undermines embryonic efforts to re-establish security and rule of law in CAR,” Pillay said.
“Although a few groups of ex-Séléka in civilian clothes continue to target Christian civilians in Bangui, most of the ongoing human rights violations are being committed by anti-Balaka elements, which appear to be growing more organized by the day,” she said.
Anti-Balaka elements are deliberately targeting the Muslim population of the capital, notably in the neighbourhoods of Miskine, Malinaka, Combattant and in the 3rd, 5th and 8th districts. These attacks, which anti-Balaka elements sometimes refer to as “clean-up operations,” are widespread and include killings, rapes, plundering and the destruction of Muslim homes.
“The extent of destruction is devastating. Doors, window frames and roofs are burned or removed. Even the walls are being reduced to rubble with the clear aim of discouraging any Muslim from returning,” Pillay said.
“The level of cruelty and disregard for life and dignity is horrifying, with public mutilation of bodies, amputation of body parts and genitals, beheadings and at least one case of cannibalism, spreading further terror among the Muslim population,” Pillay said.
“I am also very concerned that hate speech against Muslims is being broadcast on TV by anti-Balaka. Likewise, I strongly condemn the public statement made by some members of the National Transitional Council to the Parliament instigating inter-communal violence, and justifying the brutal lynching by FACA elements of a suspected ex-Séléka man on 5 February,” she added.
“Leaders should bear in mind the direct effect of their words and actions on their supporters and must be made to understand that they may be held accountable for crimes that they have ordered, solicited or induced,” Pillay said.
“The situation is also evolving dangerously outside Bangui. After their retreat from the Southern and Western parts of the country, ex-Séléka forces are now regrouping in their traditional stronghold in the north, notably in the regions of Vakaga, Batafango and Kaga Bandoro. This move is provoking a renewed cycle of violence as they employ scorched earth tactics, destroying villages, burning tools and seeds, and killing civilians on their way,” Pillay said.
“Given the strong feeling of resentment among ex-Séléka forces and the displaced Muslim population, the large non-Muslim community in these areas is clearly exposed to possible retaliatory violence. The arrival of many destitute Muslims from the south in these poverty-stricken regions is likely to further increase tensions between communities,” Pillay warned.
“I remind all leaders in key positions, whether they belong to anti-Balaka, ex-Séléka or the former army, FACA, that they have clear obligations under international law. They have a responsibility to refrain from committing, ordering, inciting or instigating violations of international law and to prevent subordinates from committing such violations,” Pillay said.
“People who commit serious human rights violations after receiving instructions, directions and orders may also have direct individual criminal responsibility for their actions and omissions,” the High Commissioner said.
“In order to break the cycle of violence and revenge, every effort must be made to restore security and rule of law, and ensure accountability,” Pillay said.
“My team is working with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that investigators and prosecutors can restart their work to ensure that people responsible for crimes and human rights violations are held accountable. The penal chain, throughout the entire judicial process, must be reactivated as soon as possible to help fight against the growing sense of absolute impunity in CAR,” said Pillay.
The High Commissioner also welcomed the fact that the Commission of Inquiry will shortly start investigating human rights violations in CAR, as well as the decision made by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to open preliminary examinations of potential crimes in the country.