A man stands in front judges at the Special Criminal court in CAR
The Special Criminal Court has a mandate to prosecute serious crimes committed during the conflict in the Central African Republic. Photo: UNDP CAR

Some 2.4 million Central Africans are in dire need of assistance. More than half a million are refugees, and 601,000 are displaced, according to OCHA figures. Over 500 grave violations of human rights were committed during the height of the conflict and political instability in the country, which lasted more than a decade between 2003 and 2015. The UN has regularly alerted the international community to early signs of genocide.

This year marks the beginning of the campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, through which States committed to the fulfilment of human rights for all people. The preamble states that “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

Central Africans continue to be denied this aspiration, a life free from fear and want. While the security situation in the capital has improved significantly since 2015, insecurity prevails in many rural areas. Over the years, fighting that was once only between armed groups has transformed into clashes between communities, particularly between pastoral and agricultural-based communities. For lack of state presence and authority, the population turns to non-state actors such as armed groups, religious institutions, and humanitarian and peacekeeping organizations for their protection.

No country and no organization can tackle such huge challenges alone. Joining efforts and strong partnerships are key - between people, countries and institutions -  and the Special Criminal Court is an excellent example of such collaboration.

UNDP, together with MINUSCA, OHCHR and UN Women, has been supporting the Central African Republic to re-establish the rule of law through joint programmes since 2014. The Special Criminal Court, established by law in 2015 to prosecute serious crimes committed since 2005, is becoming operational. The international community was needed to promote the mandate for this special court. The UN continues to support the Special Criminal Court and the state at large in regards to impunity, including through mapping human rights violations to inform the prosecution strategy of the court, assisting the government and civil society in implementing access to justice and security policies and programmes, raising awareness on human rights so that Central Africans are empowered to claim them.

Partner countries have played a crucial role and deployed the Special Prosecutor and international judges to work alongside national judges and judicial staff to fight impunity and achieve justice for the people of the Central African Republic. This level of joint commitment needs to be maintained and the promise to the people delivered.

Beyond the grave violations of human rights in the past, impunity remains a concern for Central Africans for current grievances, including violence against women, theft and other crimes. Many also lack access to civil registration, services and land. The promise of sustainable peace and rule of law in the Central African Republic depends on the capacity of the state, with support from the international community, to provide concrete justice and security services to the people. Let us continue to turn to the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to drive us, we are all born equal in dignity and rights.

About the author
Antje Kraft is a policy specialist working with the Rule of Law, Justice, Security and Human Rights team at UNDP. Follow her on Twitter: @antjekraft

To read more about UNDP’s work in the CAR and on the rule of law and human rights click click here.

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