[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] said Tuesday that humanitarian abuses have become commonplace in the Central African Republic (CAR) [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] as the armed conflict between the government and opposition forces escalates, "virtually unnoticed by the international community." Amnesty researcher Godfrey Byaruhanga said that while international attention is focused on Chad and Darfur [JURIST news archive], the CAR has become a "hunting ground" [press release] for regional armed opposition forces. Byaruhanga also implicated CAR soldiers and police officers, saying that troops have killed civilians accused of colluding with the opposition, and destroyed entire villages during reprisal attacks. Amnesty called for the CAR government to launch thorough investigations into the allegations:
[T]he CAR government must immediately investigate and bring to justice - in trials which meet international standards of fairness - its soldiers and other law enforcement agents accused of committing violations of human rights and humanitarian law.Amnesty also called for the armed opposition groups to stop violence against civilians and asked them to respect international peacekeepers"
[A]rmed groups have an obligation to respect international humanitarian law and must stop committing human rights abuses immediately... all parties to the conflict have an obligation to ensure that humanitarian organizations have unfettered access to the affected population.Byaruhanga said opposition groups, some from as far away as west Africa, frequently kidnapped children and demanded ransom. He reported that some families have had their children kidnapped as many as seven times, and have begun to flee into Sudan [JURIST news archive], Cameroon, and Chad, where life may actually be worse.
A spokesman for CAR President Francois Bozize [BBC profile] dismissed reports of the army attacking civilians and called for immediate deployment of UN forces to protect CAR civilians. BBC News has more.