Violence a Concern Ahead of Central African Republic Election

GENEVA – The U.N. human rights office is raising the alarm about the risk of renewed violence during the second round of legislative elections in the Central African Republic next Sunday.

December’s parliamentary vote and presidential election in the CAR was marked by widespread violence and human rights abuses. U.N. officials are worried about a repeat of that scenario.

The U.N. human rights office has documented 185 incidents of human rights violations and abuses from October through December. Human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says armed groups were responsible for most of these actions.

“They killed and abducted civilians, fired live ammunition to intimidate the population, attacked U.N. peacekeepers — killing seven in December and January and they burned down polling stations, and destroyed election materials… State agents and their allies have reportedly arbitrarily killed civilians, as well as tortured, ill-treated and arbitrarily arrested people,” she said.

In addition, she says government security forces allegedly looted and confiscated supplies belonging to humanitarian organizations.

In the aftermath of December’s volatile election, the government imposed a nationwide curfew and extended the state of emergency for six months.

Shamdasani warns those measures have created a fragile situation, which could worsen a human rights crisis that extends back at least to 2013, when rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize.

She says the government must quickly bring to trial all individuals who are suspected, accused or charged with involvement in serious violations and abuses in the context of the electoral process.

“As you have seen in many different situations around the world, impunity can fuel further violations and can embolden the perpetrators. So, it is very important that the government sends a clear message that such violations will not be tolerated, and people will be held accountable,” she said.

U.N. human rights officials have reminded CAR authorities that it is the job of the security forces to protect civilians and prevent violence, not instigate it. They say all allegations of violations committed by armed groups and state agents must be thoroughly and effectively investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Source: Voice of America