CIVICUS

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Central African Republic

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Last updated on 12.10.2018 at 10:51

Central African Republic-Overview

Some political stability has been restored after a devastating civil war that cost thousands of lives almost completely destroyed space for peaceful civil society activities in the Central African Republic (CAR).

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CSOs: reject general amnesty in peace negotiations

CSOs: reject general amnesty in peace negotiations

In a statement and during a press conference on 24th August 2018, five Central African and international organisations have asked to not include a general amnesty as part of the political dialogue with armed groups to end the violence

In a statement and during a press conference on 24th August 2018, five Central African and international organisations have asked to not consider a general amnesty as part of the political dialogue between an African Union panel, functioning as mediator, and armed groups to end the violence in the country. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Central African Human Rights League (LCDH), and Central African Human Rights Observatory (OCDH) said that granting amnesty for grave human rights abuses would be incompatible with the right for accountability for victims and the duty of the CAR government to bring those responsible for war crimes to justice. 

On 29th May 2018, the Parliament of CAR approved a law ratifying the regulation of the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid court which will be composed of national and international judges, to try serious crimes committed in CAR since 2003. The court was set up in 2015 as part of the CAR judicial system with international support. The Human Rights Watch report '“Looking for Justice”. The Special Criminal Court, a New Opportunity for Victims in the Central African Republic.' examines the Court's progress till date and the challenges that lies ahead. 

Expression

On 30th July 2018, three Russian journalists were killed in Sibut, 300km from CAR's capital Bangui. Freelance war reporter Orkhan Djemal, documentary maker Alexandre Rastorgouïev and cameraman Kirill Radtchenko worked for the investigative news website Investigation Control Centre (TsUR) and were in CAR to report on the use of mercenaries and activities of the Wagner Group in CAR, a private military security company of a former Russian intelligence officer, associated with a business man close to Russian president Putin.    

According to the TsUR's editor, the three visited a day before their murder a base presumed to be of Wagner's in Bangui and were turned away on the grounds of not having the necessary accreditation. TsUR is owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a well-known opponent of Russian president Putin and a former Russian oligarch who has been living in exile. Secretary-general of Reporters without Borders Christophe Deloir commented

“Four years after French photojournalist Camille Lepage was killed in the CAR, this triple murder has shown the degree to which it is still extremely dangerous for journalists to cover the conflict in this country”

Peaceful Assembly

On 10th May 2018, a protest of tens of people was dispersed by security forces, who fired shots in the center of Bangui. The protest, to denounce the deterioration of the security in Bangui, was organised on the call of Joseph Bendounga, leader of political opposition party Mouvement Démocratique pour la Renaissance et l'Evolution de Centrafrique (MDREC). Bendounga was briefly detained by police officers before being released. The march was banned by authorities. According to Radio Ndeke Luka, on 21st May a new protest to demand the lifting of the arms embargo against the CAR government, and the rehabilitation of the Armed Forces of CAR was prevented from taking place in Bangui, as Bendouga was yet again briefly detained. 

On 9th May 2018, civil society organised a protest action "ville morte" against the increasing violence in Bangui - in particular in the Muslim neighbourhood PK5 and surroundings and the deadly attack against the church Fatima on 1st May - which lead to tens of casualties. 

Association in Central African Republic

Faced with formidable obstacles and dangers, civil society organisations still play a vital role, as the Central African Republic attempts to emerge from civil war and rebuild the country.

Faced with formidable obstacles and dangers, civil society organisations still play a vital role, as the Central African Republic attempts to emerge from civil war and rebuild the country. During the conflict humanitarian CSOs faced regular attacks and human rights defenders in particular paid a heavy price, with many members of organisations like the Observatoire Centrafricain des Droits de l’Homme (OCDH) being killed because of their work in support of civilians. CSOs continue to provide vital humanitarian relief, legal services to victims of sexual abuse and peacebuilding support, which is essential to close the gap between the central government and local communities. According to one estimate, there are at least 140 organisations actively engaged in peacebuilding, human rights and development work across the country. Article 12 of CAR’s 2015 constitution provides that all citizens have the right to form associations, groupings, societies and organisations for the public good.


Peaceful Assembly in Central African Republic

While Article 8 of CAR’s new constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly, it is subject to conditions set down in law, and in recent practice this right has been strictly controlled by the Ministry of the Interior.

While Article 8 of CAR’s new constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly, it is subject to conditions set down in law, and in recent practice this right has been strictly controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The Ministry had to approve all applications for public gatherings, while security forces and armed rebel groups regularly dispersed demonstrators. Public spaces are still reported to be particularly volatile in remote parts of the country, where continued attacks by rebel groups in 2015 created fear within the civilian population.


Expression in Central African Republic

The conflict in CAR created conditions of extreme danger for domestic and foreign journalists alike. Some of those that risked their lives to cover the conflict on the front lines paid with their lives.

The conflict in CAR created conditions of extreme danger for domestic and foreign journalists alike. Some of those that risked their lives to cover the conflict on the front lines paid with their lives. Damage to infrastructure and looting of equipment during the recent conflict has made it very difficult for people in CAR to access news on the situation in the country via radio, on which most people rely for information. Mobile and Internet connectivity are also very low, with just 4% of people online by the end of 2014. The paucity of public information channels, combined with the interference of various warring factions in the media, has created very difficult conditions for free expression in CAR. The few journalists and news outlets able to operate have faced numerous threats and attacks. As the political transition moves forward in 2016, Article 13 of the new constitution has provided strong legal protections for citizens’ freedom to express opinions and share information, while much work remains to be done to secure this right in practice.