The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2020/487) issued on 03 June 2020.

The Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (S/2019/145, annex), signed between the Government and 14 armed groups in February 2019, calls for the cessation of all forms of sexual and gender-based violence (article 5). However, signatories continue to flagrantly use sexual violence as a tactic of terror against civilians. Many challenges remain with respect to monitoring, owing to access constraints, attacks by armed groups against humanitarians and large-scale displacement. In 2019, MINUSCA verified 322 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 187 women, 124 girls, 3 men, 2 boys and 6 females of unknown age. These incidents included 174 rapes or attempted rapes and 15 cases of forced marriage. In terms of the profile of the perpetrators, 83 cases were attributed to ex Séléka groups, 48 to Fulanis, who may have been affiliated with ex-Séléka, 47 to anti-balaka, 19 to Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation, 2 to the Lord’s Resistance Army, 1 to criminal gangs, and several to unidentified perpetrators. A total of seven verified cases were attributed to the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic. Reports indicate that 60 per cent of these incidents were committed by more than one perpetrator. Moreover, as the number of displaced persons increased, 2019 also saw a marked increase in the level of sexual violence occurring in internal displacement sites and host communities, as well as in rural locations, in particular while women and girls were fleeing attacks, or in the course of collecting firewood and food.

In Basse-Kotto prefecture, women and girls were systematically abducted by anti-balaka elements, who sexually abused the victims before selling them. The Government responded by designating the Minister for the Promotion of Women, Family and Child Protection as focal point to tackle trafficking in persons. In Mbomou prefecture in the east, which remains largely inaccessible owing to the absence of roads, the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique and Union pour la paix en Centrafrique continue to perpetrate sexual violence, leading to mass displacement. The fear of reprisals, stigmatization, the lack of services and widespread impunity prevent victims from reporting these crimes and receiving assistance. The proliferation of and trafficking in small arms is also common in the area. United Nations partners have established provisional psychosocial assistance structures (centres d’écoute) in sites for internally displaced persons and have disseminated information on referral pathways. The United Nations also trained members of the Armed Forces and the Forces de securité intérieure deployed in Mbomou on prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence. In Bangui, three shelters offering temporary protection and services to victims and witnesses of sexual violence were opened in 2019. However, gaps remain, including in terms of sexual and reproductive health care for survivors, as well as HIV prevention and related services, in rural locations throughout the country. In July, Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation, Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain, and anti-balaka elements joined the national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, which contributed to a decrease in conflict-related sexual violence in the west of the country, where these groups had largely been operational.

In May, my Special Representative visited Bangui and Bria and met with survivors and local service providers who were struggling to provide a holistic response in a context of severely constrained resources and limited physical security and access. These challenges were raised in the course of a constructive dialogue with the Government, which led to the signing of a new joint communiqué between the United Nations and the national authorities to strengthen protection, service delivery and accountability. The Government also took steps to reinforce the joint rapid response unit to prevent sexual violence against women and children, by finalizing the appointment of all staff and integrating its operational costs into the national budget, which is pending parliamentary approval. In August, following reports of widespread sexual violence in the first months of the year along transhumance corridors near Kaga Bandoro, the joint rapid response unit carried out a field investigation with United Nations support, which resulted in interviews with 264 victims of rape, attempted rape and torture. A quarter of the victims identified ex Séléka elements as the perpetrators, and unidentified armed men were responsible for the remaining incidents. The cases were transmitted to the prosecutor and criminal trials were held at the Bangui and Bouar courts of appeal. A criminal session involving 22 cases of conflict-related sexual violence was initiated in December in Bangui. The Special Prosecutor and investigating judges of the Special Criminal Court continued to implement their prosecutorial strategy, and the Victim and Witness Protection Unit became operational. MINUSCA also supported vetting to prevent the integration of past perpetrators of sexual violence into the armed forces.

Recommendation

I commend the Government on the adoption of the new joint communiqué and call for the development of an action plan, with support from my Special Representative, and the nomination of a special adviser on conflict-related sexual violence within the Office of the President. I further call upon all parties to comply with the peace accord and end the use of sexual violence, hold perpetrators accountable and guarantee the security of humanitarian personnel.

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