LIBREVILLE: Armed groups in the Central African
Republic have killed hundreds of civilians in an unfettered spree of
bloodletting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.
The group issued a 92-page report ahead of the impending opening of a
Special Criminal Court, a new judicial body that will probe rights violations
in the country since 2003.
Investigators found evidence of more than 560 civilian deaths and the
destruction of more than 4,200 homes by militias since late 2014, HRW said.
But this was likely to be just a small fraction of the total crimes that
had been committed, it cautioned.
The killings had occurred "with wholesale impunity," the watchdog said.
"Over the past two years, hundreds of witnesses told us of brazen war
crimes committed by Seleka and anti-balaka fighters across the centre and
eastern part of the Central African Republic," HRW researcher Lewis Mudge
"The lack of justice for these crimes has left fighters free to terrorise
civilians at will, and fuelled ongoing revenge attacks."
One of the world's poorest nations, CAR was pitched into a civil war
between Muslim and Christian militias in 2013, unleashed when President
Francois Bozize was overthrown by a coalition of Muslim-majority rebel groups
called the Seleka.
They in turn were ousted by a military intervention led by former colonial
Those events sparked the bloodiest sectarian violence in the country's
history as mainly Christian militias sought revenge.
Christians, who account for about 80 percent of the population, organised
vigilante units dubbed "anti-balaka", a reference to the machetes used by the
The HRW evidence adds to a UN report issued on May 30 that covers crimes
committed in the country from 2003 to 2015.
In it, the United Nations documented "appalling" crimes by the army, armed
groups and international forces.
It put forward evidence of gang rape, sexual slavery, the torching of
entire villages and possibly genocide.
The SCC is a hybrid court embedded in the country's legal system but
incorporating national and international judges.
Its prosecutor took the oath of office on June 30. The court itself is
scheduled to become operational in October.
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