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UN report sees no genocide in C. African Republic

June 5, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A new U.N. report says “ample evidence” exists that both sides in the devastating conflict in Central African Republic have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, but it says it’s too early to speak of genocide or ethnic cleansing.

A commission of inquiry’s preliminary report, obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, appears to conflict with an earlier U.N. human rights assessment that ethnic cleansing has occurred in the months of fighting between Christians and Muslims. At least one prominent human rights group, Amnesty International, quickly objected to the report’s finding.

The report also says neighboring countries, notably Chad, “participated or helped the parties to the armed conflict,” and that perhaps Central African Republic’s unprecedented sectarian violence will be proven to be an international conflict, not just an internal one.

Thousands have been killed since the fighting began in December, and thousands of Muslims have fled the country. The sectarian nature of the violence has shocked the international community, and its ferocity has led to beheadings of children and entire villages burned.

In the chaos, one of the world’s poorest countries has been left with a largely powerless transitional government.

A U.N. peacekeeping force of thousands is expected in Central African Republic in September, but the report warns that if the international community “does not react with speed and determination,” the situation on the ground could quickly deteriorate even further, leading to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The new report has been submitted to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.

Back in February, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said “ethnic-religious cleansing” threatened to tear apart the country, and Amnesty International used the term “ethnic cleansing” for the conflict for the first time.

But the new report stated, “The fact that there is an anti-Muslim propaganda from certain non-Muslim quarters does not mean that genocide is being planned or that there is any conspiracy to commit genocide or even a specific intent to commit genocide.

“The displacement of Muslims affected by whatever party so far is a matter of protection and the preservation of human life, not a matter of ethnic cleansing.”

In an email to AP on Thursday, Amnesty International objected.

“I would say that ... the report is ignoring the fact that the massive displacement of the Muslim population in the Central African Republic is not simply a consequence of the violence there, but its goal,” senior crisis response adviser Joanne Mariner wrote. Christian militia fighters “have made no secret of their intent to kill or forcibly expel all Muslims from the areas under their control.”

The new report also appears to condemn neighboring Chad and Sudan for their role in the violence.

Muslim rebel forces from the north known as Seleka, which included mercenaries from Chad and Sudan, have been blamed for numerous atrocities against civilians during their 10-month rule that ended in January. A wave of retaliatory violence by Christians followed.

“The leaders of Seleka knew or ought to have known, from the quality and character of the mercenaries they had recruited, that they would behave the way they did,” the report says.

“So far there is no evidence that the leaders of the coalition tried at any time to restrain these mercenaries from committing crimes.”

The report singles out Chad, saying “there is enough evidence” to show that Seleka and its leaders received its military and financial support.

Chad’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a call and email for comment.

The predominantly Muslim country has played a complicated role in Central African Republic.

In April, it pulled its members from an African-led peacekeeping force there after its troops fired into a crowd of civilians, killing more than 30. Foreign Affairs Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat cited a “gratuitous and malicious campaign” against the Chadians, saying they had been blamed for the problems in Central African Republic despite having made considerable sacrifices. He said Chad continued to work for reconciliation there.

The members of the commission of inquiry are Bernard Acho Muna, Cameroonian lawyer who was deputy chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and Fatimata M’Baye, a Mauritanian human rights lawyer. A third member, former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, resigned earlier for personal reasons, the U.N. human rights office said Thursday.


Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

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