Crimes Against Humanity in Central African Republic

Deadly clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR) call for a judicial solution, according to U.N. humanitarian coordinator Najat Rochdi after at least 26 people died in an attack by unidentified armed assailants on a church in the capital, Bangui, earlier this month.

Reuters reports that a special criminal court will begin formal investigation into the worst of these crimes next week.

Rochdi, Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, says an upsurge of violence in April and May has sent many returning refugees fleeing to neighboring Cameroon and Chad and 25 percent of the people in the country are now displaced by the violence. She states that the only solution is “to create a judiciary system that is credible, that is legitimate and that works, hence the special criminal court.”

CAR has been designated a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). CPCs are countries with “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom that the governments are responsible for or have tolerated.”

In its 2018 annual report USCIRF states:

“The Central African Republic (CAR) remains violent, fragile, and fractured along religious lines. In 2017, targeted killings based on religious identity escalated in the center and east of the country. Violence was reminiscent of the extensive killing and displacement of Muslims that took place in 2014; armed groups especially targeted the ethnoreligious minority Peuhl population.

“In early August, then United Nations (UN) Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien warned that the early signs of genocide are present in CAR. Militias that formed along opposing Muslim and Christian lines killed individuals based on their religious identity and displaced tens of thousands.

“More than one million Central Africans were displaced as of late 2017, the highest number since 2014. CAR’s Muslim population remains disproportionately displaced, with 80 percent of that community having been driven from the country. In the western part of the country, some Muslims cannot practice their faith, move freely, or equally access services.

“A USCIRF delegation that traveled to CAR in May was disappointed by senior government officials’ dismissive response to concerns about conditions for Muslims. Government officials failed to acknowledge that the conflict has resulted in gross violations of religious freedom, including widespread killing based on religious identity, the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, separation of communities based on religion, and the destruction of houses of worship.

“The CAR government has taken some steps to address interfaith tensions but needs to increase its reconciliation efforts to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and improve interfaith relations. USCIRF again finds in 2018 that CAR merits designation as a ’country of particular concern,’ or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has since 2015.”

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