Central African Republic ― Human Rights Council ― Death Penalty ― Apr. 2013

The Advocates for Human Rights in collaboration with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty submitted a joint stakeholder report to the UN Human Rights Council for the October 2013 Universal Periodic Review of the Central African Republic (CAR). The CAR supported the 2012 UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty; nonetheless, it has continued arbitrary and prolonged detentions of individuals with the threat of torture or execution.

This joint stakeholder submission recommends that the CAR officially declare a moratorium on the death penalty, revise its criminal code to eliminate the death penalty, and increase transparency about criminal proceedings, including publicizing data about the imposition of the death penalty. The report further recommends that the CAR ensure that the country’s security forces respect the right of due process and end impunity for government officials who violate the rights of detainees.

The CAR has failed not only to maintain its duties to international law for the protection of individuals against the death penalty, but also to abolish the death penalty when it revised its criminal code in 2010. People accused of crimes in the CAR face serious threats to their human rights due to the country’s unstable criminal justice system, the use of torture in detention centers, and continued impunity for government officials who engage in human rights violations.

For most people accused of crimes in the CAR, the right to a fair trial is not guaranteed. The law does not require a judge to issue an arrest warrant; therefore, security forces arrest and detain individuals without cause. Court officials accept bribes, and proceedings are highly inefficient. Moreover, there are just 124 magistrates and 38 courthouses serving a country of approximately five million people. Authorities are required to bring arrestees before a magistrate within 3-10 days of arrest, but in some cases people wait years to stand trial. Police and prison officials commonly administer torture to obtain confessions.

Moreover, about 33 offenses in the CAR’s penal code still carry the death penalty. Although the law requires the court to appoint counsel in death-eligible cases, the government has not allocated adequate resources for counsel. The judiciary is understaffed and lacks sufficient resources to ensure that the criminal justice process respects human rights.