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UN says Central African Republic abuses include witchcraft

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. chief has reported 269 verified incidents of human rights violations and abuses in Central African Republic including arbitrary killings, conflict-related sexual violence and allegations of witchcraft.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report to the U.N. Security Council on the central Africa region circulated Wednesday said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic documented incidents involving 915 victims including 53 women, 48 boys and 30 girls.

The report on activities of the U.N. regional office since Nov. 15 did not give a breakdown of the number of killings or cases of sexual and gender-based violence, cruel treatment and arbitrary arrests and detentions.

But it said without elaborating that “18 incidents of human rights violations and abuse related to allegations of witchcraft affecting mainly women and children were documented.”

Central African Republic was rocked by violence after mostly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the president in 2013. Widespread human rights abuses committed by Seleka led to the formation of the anti-Balaka Christian militia which unleashed sectarian fighting that forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians to flee to the north or to neighboring countries.

CAR has experienced relative peace since the landmark visit of Pope Francis last November, largely because the Muslims have fled and a new president was inaugurated on March 30. But sexual abuse by U.N. and international troops sent to protect civilians remains a serious problem.

The report said those responsible for the 269 rights violations and abuses “were elements from the anti-Balaka, ex-Seleka, LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and state authorities.”

Throughout central Africa, the report said, the human rights situation “remains of grave concern, particularly as a result of continuing Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon and Chad, as well as abuses perpetrated by armed elements in the Central African Republic.”

The secretary-general also reported serious allegations of torture, sexual violence, the destruction and appropriation of property, and prolonged pretrial detention by security forces.

Ban quoted a report by the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, that nearby one out of every five Boko Haram suicide bombers is a child – and almost three-quarters of them are girls.

“Boko Haram remains a serious threat for regional peace and security,” Ban said.

He renewed an earlier call for a summit of regional leaders to focus on addressing the root causes of the rise of the extremist group, and to tackle “this scourge.”

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