Provision in Reporting States for Conscientious Objection to Military Service - CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

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Submission to the 87th Session of the Human Rights Committee: July 2006:

No legislation recognising the right of conscientious objection to
military service has ever been reported from the Central African
Republic. The current situation of the national armed forces is
unclear.

All
reference sources agree that military recruitment in the Central
African Republic is based on selective conscription for a term of two
years, followed by reserve obligations for an unspecified period, but
the only further detail is given in the Eide / Mubanga-Chipoya report
of 19851,
where it is indicated that only civil servants are liable to
conscription.

When the
Human Rights Committee last considered the Central African Republic,
in July 2004, just over a year had passed since the coup which
brought General Bozizé to power. Although the consideration was
held in the absence of a State Report, representatives of the new
Government were able to attend for a dialogue with the Committee.
They gave little detail of the ongoing process of “restructuring”
of the armed forces, but did refer to the demobilisation and
reintegration into society of members of various militias, and that
some of the “patriots” - the fighters who had supported the coup
-had chosen to be integrated into the regular army, while others had
returned to civilian life.2

It
is known that in the years of intermittent civil conflict leading up
to the coup the role of the national armed forces was rather less
significant than that of various informal militias associated with
different political factions, and often overlapping with fighters
from neighbouring countries. The role of Jean-Pierre Bemba, now
Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, was particularly
notorious.3 It does not seem that the existing national armed forces, who had
numbered something over 4,000 at the turn of the century4 put up much resistance to the coup of March 2003; in the immediate
aftermath of the coup security in the country was maintained by a
small multi-national force from the CEMAC
(Communauté economique et monetaire de l’Afrique centrale),
a
small detatchment of the French army, which took control of the
international airport, and a largely Chadian presidential guard.
There is no clear indication of what proportion of the regular armed
forces transferred their allegiance to the new regime, and how soon,
and what proportion disappeared with their arms. Although such
defections contributed to the stock of illegally-held small arms in
the country, they accounted for a very small proportion of that
stock, variously estimated at between 50,000 and 80,000 in the months
after the coup.5

The
strength of the armed forces is now believed to be a mere 2,550,
including a 1,000 strong paramilitary gendarmerie.6
With the integration of former “patriots” and restructuring, it
seems unlikely that any fresh recruitment is needed at present.
Moreover, the first act of the new government after the 2003 coup was
to suspend the 1995 constitution and place the power of legislation
in the hands of the President, through Orders made in the Council of
Ministers.7 Amongst the areas covered were “...les
sujétions imposées aux Centrafricains et aux Etrangers résidents
en leur personne et en leur biens en vue de l’utilité publique et
en vue de la défense nationale
...
(“ the personal and material obligations
imposed on Central Africans and on resident foreigners for the public
interest and the national defence”) (Para. 6 of Constitutional Act
2). It would seem that unless reinstated under authority stemming
from this Act no previous legislation regarding military recruitment
would remain valid; no information concerning such legislation has
been traced.

It
would be helpful to hear from the Government of the Central African
Republic whether legislation permitting the call-up of any citizens
to perform obligatory military service is in force, and if so whether
it is currently being applied, who is subject to conscription, and
what the applicable period of conscription might be.

Whether
or not compulsory recruitment is being imposed at present, in order
to guarantee the continued protection of the freedom of thought,
conscience and religion the Central African Republic should be
encouraged to make clear legislative provision that any person at any
time ought to be able to refuse, or apply for release from, military
service on the grounds of conscientious objection.

Notes


1
Eide, A.& Mubanga-Chipoya,
C.L.C,
Conscientious
objection to military service
,
(Report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30
of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection
of Minorities), 1985, United Nations Sales No. E.85.XIV.I




2
CCPR/C/SR2212/2004, para 3; CCPR/C/SR2213/2004, para 64.




3
See Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme
(FIDH), Rapport No. 382: Mission Internationale d’Enquête -
Republique centrafricaine - Quelle justice pour les victimes de
crimes de guerre?
, Paris, February 2004.




4
Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2000/2001,
Oxford University Press, 2001.




5
FIDH, op.cit.; Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child
Soldiers Global Report 2004
, London. The difference is as to
whether the arms held in the capital, Bangui are part of, or
additional to, the total for the rest of the country.




6
Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2005/2006,
Routledge, October 2005.




7
Constitutional Acts Nos. 1 and 2, both dated 15th March,
2003.


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