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UNITED NATIONS, Jul 10 2014 (IPS) - Perpetrators of human rights atrocities in the Central African Republic operate with complete impunity because of the country’s feeble judicial system and ongoing instability, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday.
Based on interviews conducted between December 2013 and May 2014, the report chronicles human rights violations on all sides of the conflict between the mostly Christian Anti-balaka and the mostly Muslim Séléka armed groups.
“Since December 2013, deliberate large-scale killings of civilians, including women and children, have continued unabated, sometimes followed by mutilation, dismembering and burning of the bodies,” the report said. “Acts of cannibalism have also been reported.”
The report, entitled Central African Republic: Time for Accountability, identifies about twenty alleged human rights abusers, including François Bozizé and Michel Djotodia, both former presidents of the Central African Republic (CAR) who are at the centre of the conflict.
Amnesty International also spotlighted the alleged killing of civilians on CAR territory by the Chadian national army and the Chadian contingent of the African Union’s CAR peacekeeping force.
“Most of the attacks have been conducted openly, the perpetrators showing no remorse or fear of sanction,” the report said.
CAR’s failure to effectively investigate past human rights abuses has convinced violators that they will not be held accountable.
According to the report, the security situation in the CAR holds much of the blame for the culture of impunity. The transitional government, assisted by 5,800 African Union peacekeepers and 2,000 French soldiers, has been unable to stem the violence, leaving the judicial system in a precarious position.
On at least three occasions, human rights abusers have broken out of the country’s only operational prison en masse.
Because of violence targeted at those who speak out against the massacres, magistrates fear for their lives and those of their family members. In May 2014 the Bangui prosecutor announced that criminal proceedings would be suspended altogether.
In the report, Amnesty International criticizes the transitional government’s reluctance to move forward with investigations. The transitional authorities fear that the detention of prominent anti-Balaka and Séléka members would provoke retaliation and instigate even more instability.
The report worries that “Despite the urgency of the situation, the international community’s response to the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in CAR has been far too slow.”
Amnesty International concludes the report by calling for a coordinated international effort to restore CAR’s justice system and hold human rights abusers accountable for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“The net is closing in on those responsible for human rights abuses,” said Christian Mukosa, Amnesty International’s CAR expert. “Their names and whereabouts are known. Their crimes are being documented. And they will face justice.”
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