Kenya: Rights group says people with disabilities at high risk in CAR's conflict

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – People with disabilities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have faced violent attacks, forced displacement, and ongoing neglect in the humanitarian response, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The human rights group said a peace accord signed on 19 June, 2017, offers a chance to help this abused and marginalized group.

It said in a news release that a new Human Rights Watch research in the country shows that people with a range of disabilities are often unable to flee violence, are especially vulnerable to attack while trying to flee, and face unsafe and unhealthy conditions in displacement camps.

“The peace accord should bring a respite for civilians who have been brutalised in this conflict, especially people with disabilities who suffer violence and neglect,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “People with disabilities and other at-risk groups should get the protection and assistance they desperately need.”

Human Rights Watch said in April 2017 it interviewed more than 30 people with disabilities in Bambari and Kaga-Bandoro, two towns affected by a recent surge in violence. This research builds on an April 2015 report to reveal the ongoing abuse that people with disabilities face in the conflict.

To improve protection for people with disabilities, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, and relevant United Nations bodies should monitor and report publicly about abuses against these people and dedicate resources to improving the limited humanitarian assistance that they receive, Human Rights Watch said. Governments should also urgently contribute to the UN’s humanitarian appeal for the Central African Republic.

In some cases, people with disabilities either could not or chose not to flee an attack. “Jacques” from the town of Wadja-Wadja said that fighters from a Seleka faction, the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (l’Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique, UPC,) killed his friend “Spa,” a 40-year-old man with a physical disability, when they attacked the town of Yassine on 20 March.

“Spa did not like his crutches because he felt they made him slow,” Jacques said. “When the attack started, he was not moving. I don’t know why. Maybe he thought he would not be killed because he had a disability. When I went back to Yassine I saw him dead. He had been shot in the chest. He was still in the same place I saw him when I fled.”

Human Rights Watch said it also interviewed people with various physical disabilities who were threatened or shot at as they tried to flee fighting. One woman who cannot walk watched as her two children, 4 and 5, drowned while trying to cross a river alone.

On 19 June, the government and 13 of 14 armed groups active in the country signed a peace accord mediated by the Roman Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio. The accord commits the parties to end their hostilities and to recognize last year’s presidential election results.

Human Rights Watch said the accord is a step toward ending the conflict that should also promote accountability for grave crimes that were committed. This includes criminal prosecutions under the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court, a hybrid domestic court with local and international staffing, and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The accord takes note of both courts and calls for the creation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.

More than 500,000 people are living in camps for internally displaced people, and about 400,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries. There is no data on the numbers and needs of people with disabilities.

For people with disabilities, either from before the conflict or due to injuries sustained during attacks, conditions in the internal displacement camps are particularly harsh. Camp residents receive limited aid but people with disabilities, especially those without family members, struggle to get food due to the often chaotic and disorganized nature of food distributions, the human rights watchdog said.
-0- PANA MA 21June2017

21 june 2017 07:52:24

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