The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2019/280) issued on 29 March 2019.

Armed groups have consistently, and with flagrant impunity, used sexual violence as a tactic of war in the Central African Republic. In 2018, the south -east region witnessed cycles of violence between anti-Balaka and Union pour la paix en Centrafrique. Systematic attacks on civilians resulted in mass displacement. In that region, where farming is the primary source of income, displacement from their land meant that 75 per cent of the population lost their means of livelihood. Most of the women and girls who were raped by elements belonging to parties to the conflict were intercepted on their way to farms or while fleeing to safety.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) documented 179 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 259 victims (144 women, 78 girls, 1 man, 1 boy and 35 females of unknown age). The incidents included 239 cases of rape or attempted rape, 14 forced marriages, one case of sexual slavery, and five other forms of sexual violence. 101 cases were attributed to ex-Séléka groups, 62 to Fulanis who may have been affiliated with the ex-Séléka, 45 to the anti-Balaka, 2 to the Lord’s Resistance Army, 5 to Retour, réclamation et rehabilitation-Abbas Sidiki, 7 to Bangui-based armed gangs, 2 to Révolution et justice, 27 to unidentified perpetrators and 5 to other perpetrators. A total of 3 cases were attributed to the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic. Almost 70 per cent of the crimes were committed by more than one perpetrator. MINUSCA verified the use by armed groups of 10 girls, whose ages ranged from 11 to 17 years old, as wives. The cases were attributed to anti-Balaka (5), ex-Séléka factions (3) and Lord’s Resistance Army (2). The Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic, in its report for 2018 (S/2018/1119), noted that conflictrelated sexual violence is largely underreported, mainly owing to victims’ fear of retaliation. The Panel further noted a high percentage of reported cases occurring in rural areas, where victims are often assaulted by multiple armed aggressors.

In 2018, hundreds of persons reported sexual violence crimes to the joint rapid response unit to prevent sexual violence against women and children (see also para. 26). Among those individuals, the unit registered 33 victims of conflict-related sexual violence, including 27 women, 4 girls and 2 men. Furthermore, in November 2018, the unit undertook its first field investigation outside of Bangui, supported by United Nations police and the Internal Security Forces of Bossangoa, to investigate allegations of a mass rape allegedly committed by armed Fulani groups in Nana – Bakassa sub-prefecture. Despite the progress made by the unit in increasing survivors’ trust in the criminal justice system, the Government was not able to guarantee the unit’s sustainability in its national budget. Moreover, the Panel of Experts found that of the 320 cases of sexual violence that were submitted by the unit to the Bangui Criminal Court, few had resulted in trials.

The Mission and the United Nations country team worked closely with the special prosecutor and investigating judges of the Special Criminal Court to develop the investigation and prosecutorial strategy for cases of sexual violence and to advocate their prioritization. The Victim and Witness Protection Unit of the Special Criminal Court, which is currently being established, is essential to such cases. MINUSCA also provided technical support for the establishment of a digital database, which will be instrumental in following up on cases from their registration by the unit until the end of judicial proceedings. Through United Nations support for national partners, 83 community-based protection committees, with a total of 220 members, and 109 protection networks were established. Several women received training on case management concepts to ensure psychosocial care for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and to facilitate referrals to relevant service providers. As a result of those community-based engagements, 80 per cent of victims of sexual S/2019/280 10/35 19-04552 violence who reported their cases to the United Nations and its partners were able to gain access to clinical and psychosocial care.

Recommendation

I urge the Government to ensure the prosecution of all cases of conflict-related sexual violence in accordance with international standards, to finalize the appointment of staff to the joint rapid response unit to prevent sexual violence against women and children, and to explore ways to ensure the sustainability of the unit. I further urge the special prosecutor and investigating judges of the Special Criminal Court to consider prioritizing crimes of sexual violence.

 

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