UN warns those killing Muslims in Central Africa to be held accountable

(Photo: REUTERS / Luc Gnago)A street vendor hides from gunfire near a church during a firefight between African peacekeepers and fighters from the Christian "anti-balaka" militia at Boy-rabe, an area in Bangui February 18, 2014.

GENEVA – The United Nations human rights chief has warned those killing Muslims in the Central African Republic they will be held accountable for crimes against humanity from their actions.

As atrocities continue to occur in the Central African Republic, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday reminded leaders in positions of authority that they have legal obligations.

She said Wednesday they and will be held personally accountable for the serious human rights violations committed in CAR, which may amount to crimes against humanity, as a result of their actions or omissions.

"Although the overall situation seems slightly calmer in Bangui, reports of more killings and violence continue.

"The recent assassination of a member of Parliament after he called for those responsible for committing human rights violations to be arrested is an extremely worrying development, as it undermines embryonic efforts to re-establish security and rule of law in CAR," Pillay said.

Heavy fighting near the airport in Bangui on Wednesday as Christian militia blocked an attempt to evacuate Muslims, witnesses said, disrupted a visit by a top United Nations aid official. Reuters news agency reported.

Predominately Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, toppled President Francois Bozize last March. Killings and abuses carried while they were in power led to the creation of a mainly Christian self-defence militia known as "anti-balaka."

"Although a few groups of ex-Séléka in civilian clothes continue to target Christian civilians in Bangui, most of the ongoing human rights violations are being committed by anti-Balaka elements, which appear to be growing more organized by the day," Pillay said.

The U.N. statement said that anti-Balaka elements are deliberately targeting the Muslim population of the capital.

These attacks, which anti-Balaka elements sometimes refer to as "clean-up operations," are widespread and include killings, rapes, plundering and the destruction of Muslim homes, the U.N. statement said.

"The extent of destruction is devastating. Doors, window frames and roofs are burned or removed. Even the walls are being reduced to rubble with the clear aim of discouraging any Muslim from returning," Pillay said.

"The level of cruelty and disregard for life and dignity is horrifying, with public mutilation of bodies, amputation of body parts and genitals, beheadings and at least one case of cannibalism, spreading further terror among the Muslim population," Pillay said.

She said she was extremely concerned that that television is broadcasting hate speech against Muslims by anti-Balaka.

"Leaders should bear in mind the direct effect of their words and actions on their supporters and must be made to understand that they may be held accountable for crimes that they have ordered, solicited or induced," Pillay said.

She reminded all leaders in key positions, whether they support Christian of Muslim groups that they have clear obligations under international law

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