Rights group says civilians targeted in CAR as violence surges

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) – Violence threatening civilians has surged in recent months in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) south-central and southeastern regions, a human rightswatchdog said on Friday.

To protect people at risk, the United Nations Security Council should renew the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission before it ends on 15 November, 2017, and approve an 18 October request by Secretary-General António Guterres for 900 more troops, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday.

United Nations peacekeepers have been instrumental in protecting civilians in many instances, HRW said, urging the 15-member Council to give the peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, the additional resources the UN says it needs to protect civilians from attacks, including sexual abuse.

“The rate of civilian killings in the Central African Republic in 2017 has been alarming, and in many areas across the country civilians are desperate for protection,” said Lewis Mudge, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Security Council should give the mission the resources it needs to protect civilians, including sufficient troop numbers to respond to the resurgence of violence threatening civilians and to protect camps for displaced people.”

In August, September, and October, Human Rights Watch said it documented the killings by armed groups of at least 249 civilians since May, most in the south-central and southeastern parts of the country. The figure does not represent the total number of civilians killed nationwide, nor the many killings in remote and difficult to access areas.

Human Rights Watch also documented 25 cases of rape by armed groups in Basse-Kotto province in the same period, part of a pattern of systematic rape and sexual abuse of women and girls by armed groups over the past five years.

It said it found in the cases it documented that if UN peacekeepers had a presence or could be deployed quickly, they were able to help stop attacks on civilians, or limit violence and save lives.

The report said in other cases, the absence of troops in the area left civilians unprotected. Ten peacekeepers have lost their lives during 2017 in attacks by armed groups in the country.

The current fighting has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes since May, bringing the total number of internally displaced people in the country, based on UN figures, to 600,300, and the total number of refugees to 518,200, the highest since mid-2014.

Most of the abuses Human Rights Watch documented were by factions of the Seleka rebels, including the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC), and by anti-balaka forces. Some killings were carried out by armed men who were not apparently part of either group.
-0- PANA MA 27Oct2017

27 october 2017 05:32:27

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