New Satellite Images Reveal Shocking Aftermath of Abuses in the Central African Republic

Press Release
November 8, 2013

New Satellite Images Reveal Shocking Aftermath of Abuses in the Central African Republic

Contact: Carol Gregory, cgregory@aiusa.org, 202-675-8759, @AIUSAmedia

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Expert analysis of new satellite imagery Amnesty International has obtained from the Central African Republic (CAR) reveals the shocking aftermath of recent human rights abuses amid spiraling violence by armed groups and security forces.

The images include evidence of 485 homes being torched in Bouca as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the town of Bossangoa as people flee the ongoing violence.

'The international community cannot turn a blind-eye to those suffering through the humanitarian and human rights crisis that has seized the Central African Republic,' said Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager, Amnesty International USA. 'Gathered through ground research and from observation overhead, the evidence of potential crimes against humanity cannot be ignored.'

On September 9, 2013, armed civilians known locally as Anti Balaka attacked a Muslim neighborhood in the town of Bouca. They killed at least three people and set fire to houses belonging to Muslims.

On the same day, Seleka - the coalition of armed groups, which seized power in March after launching an offensive against former President Francois Bozizé last December – carried out reprisal attacks on Christians. They killed at least 10 people and burned houses belonging to Christians. Later that day, a Christian humanitarian worker employed by the government was accused of involvement in the attacks and summarily executed by a Seleka commander.

A comparison of satellite images of Bouca taken on April 27, 2012 and November 2, 2013 reveals significant fire damage in central and eastern parts of the town, affecting approximately 485 houses, leaving a large area severely damaged.

Insecurity is further fuelling a growing displacement crisis, exacerbated since the escalation of armed conflict in December 2012. Several hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced while more than 60,000 Central Africans have fled to neighboring countries.

According to humanitarian sources in the CAR, there were more than 30,000 IDPs in Bossangoa as a result of fighting, which started in September this year. Satellite imagery from the area from October 23 shows the emergence of tent-like structures and people sheltering in the open. Out of concerns for the safety of these IDPs, Amnesty International is not publishing these recent images at this point.

The new satellite imagery corroborates the findings in an Amnesty International report issued last week. CAR: Human rights crisis spiralling out of control highlighted the unprecedented scale of human rights violations committed across the country by Seleka.

Since December 2012, hundreds of civilians have been deliberately killed while thousands have been subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. Some of the abuses appear to be targeted at religious groups, with predominantly Muslim members of Seleka targeting churches and people they believe to be Christians. Meanwhile, Christian militia around the country are targeting Muslims.

The organization called on the CAR authorities to publically and unequivocally condemn all human rights violations committed by all security forces and armed groups, and to bring perpetrators to justice and provide reparations for the victims. The African Union and United Nations must also do more to ensure effective and coordinated measures are taken to protect civilians and establish law and order in the country, to finally put an end to this devastating human rights and humanitarian crisis.

'This violence has been allowed to escalate for too long and has already spiraled out of control,' said Aster van Kregten, deputy Africa program director at Amnesty International. 'Much more needs to be done to ensure that Central African civilians are effectively protected.'

NOTE TO EDITORS:

To view or download the satellite imagery and descriptions, please visit: http://www.hightail.com/download/OGhjeFlVMVh6NFB2bk1UQw

Attribution:

Analysis commissioned by Amnesty International. Images (c) Digital Globe 2013

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.