The Central African Republic is a republic with a transitional government led by Catherine Samba Panza, who was elected president by the Transitional National Council (CNT) in January 2014. The president and prime minister share executive power. The CNT was established after the Seleka rebel alliance, led by Michel Djotodia, deposed former president Francois Bozize in March 2013. In April 2013 the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) adopted the Ndjamena Declaration, which provided for the establishment of a transitional government leading to elections 18 months after the swearing-in of the transitional president, or by February 2015. In August 2013 Djotodia was sworn in as transitional president under the terms of a transitional charter but resigned in January 2014 under pressure from ECCAS after state authority--already weak under Bozize--largely collapsed under his rule. In December 2014 ECCAS extended the transition for an additional six months and called for a constitutional referendum and presidential and legislative elections by August 2015. Despite financial, logistical, and security challenges that resulted in further delays, the first of two rounds of presidential and legislative elections was held on December 30. The second round of elections was slated to occur before the end of March 2016. The last general election occurred in 2011, when former president Francois Bozize was re-elected in what national and international observers considered flawed elections. Civilian authorities did not maintain effective control over the security forces, and state authority barely extended beyond the capital Bangui. Armed groups controlled significant swaths of territory throughout the country and acted as de facto governing institutions, taxing local populations, providing security services, and appointing members to leadership roles.
While the human rights situation continued to improve since the September 2014 deployment of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), the civilian population remained subject to killings, hostage-taking, mistreatment and torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and displacement. According to MINUSCA’s Report on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic, released on December 11, “serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law continued to be committed throughout the country by nonstate armed groups…and, to a lesser extent, by state actors.”
The most serious human rights problems included arbitrary and unlawful killings, especially those perpetrated by the ex-Seleka and groups known as the anti-Balaka. (Note: This report refers to the “ex-Seleka” for all abuses attributed to the Seleka that occurred after the Seleka was dissolved in September 2013). Since 2013 the violence has claimed thousands of lives, and more than 800,000 persons remained internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries. Enforced disappearances and torture; sexual violence, including rape; and the use of child soldiers continued.
Other human rights problems included: inability of citizens to change the government through free and fair elections; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, including the use of illegal detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; the complete break-down of the judicial system, resulting in prolonged pretrial detention and denial of fair public trial; arbitrary interference with privacy and the home; seizure and destruction of property without due process; and the use of excessive and indiscriminate force in internal conflict. There were restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and movement. Refugees lacked protection and access to basic services. Corruption was widespread. Domestic and international human rights groups faced harassment and threats. Discrimination and violence were experienced by women; children; persons with disabilities; ethnic minorities; indigenous people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; persons with HIV/AIDS; Christians; and Muslims. Forced labor and child labor, including forced child labor, were also problems.
The government did not take steps to investigate and prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, creating a climate of impunity.
On July 24, Marie-Therese Keita Bocoum, the UN independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, released a report on events from May 2014 to June. While noting improved security due to increased patrolling by MINUSCA, the report attributed most human rights violations to armed groups. Such groups included ex-Seleka factions, which controlled the northern and eastern areas; the anti-Balaka, which controlled the western part of the country; and other armed groups operating in the East, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Revolution and Justice, and the Democratic Front of the Central African People. MINUSCA peacekeeping troops reportedly were responsible for extrajudicial killings, and there were reports of sexual exploitation and the inappropriate use of force by international and MINUSCA peacekeeping forces during the year.