Central African Republic
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Tier 3
The Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; therefore, the Central African Republic remained on Tier 3. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking by establishing the national Disarmament, Demobilization, Reinsertion, and Repatriation (DDRR) Consultative Committee and continuing to support the operation of an orphanage that could house potential trafficking victims. However, the government did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers. It also did not identify, provide protection to, or refer to assistance any trafficking victims. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns or provide any anti-trafficking training for law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges. According to an international organization, the government took no action to hold accountable armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers during the reporting period. Several international NGOs reported their anti-trafficking efforts were inhibited by harassment from local officials and general corruption.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers from armed groups and self-defense units; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and adequately sentence traffickers, specifically government officials or armed group members who unlawfully recruit child soldiers; take concrete steps to provide comprehensive protection services to victims of all forms of trafficking, and ensure trafficking victims, including child soldiers, are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; hold court hearings for suspected trafficking cases; thoroughly vet incoming members of the reconstituted Central African Armed Forces (FACA) to ensure soldiers who have committed abuses against children are not reintegrated; train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the penal code’s anti-trafficking provisions to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, provide care to demobilized child soldiers and children in commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; draft and implement a national action plan to combat all forms of human trafficking; and increase efforts to educate and encourage the public and relevant governmental authorities to identify and report trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution, street children, children associated with armed groups, and Ba’aka minorities.
The government maintained insufficient anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 151 of the penal code criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons and prescribes penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. If the offense involves a child victim of sex trafficking or forced labor similar to slavery, the prescribed penalty is life imprisonment with hard labor. Articles 7 and 8 of the January 2009 Labor Code criminalizes forced and bonded labor and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment.
The government did not report prosecuting any trafficking cases or convicting any traffickers, and has not done so since 2008. Traditional dispute resolution methods were widely practiced throughout the country to punish criminal acts, often to the exclusion of formal legal proceedings. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement, prosecutors, or judges.
The government made negligible efforts to identify and protect victims. It did not report assisting or referring to care any trafficking victims during the year. The government reported there were 39 child trafficking victims, 22 boys and 17 girls, ages 9-17, who were identified by international organizations; however, it did not report referring these children to care. The government did not have or develop measures for the proactive identification of victims among vulnerable groups or enact a standardized system for referring identified victims to NGOs to receive care. The Ministry of Social Affairs continued to provide financial support to an NGO for the operation of an orphanage to house and assist children, including potential trafficking victims; however, it is unknown if any trafficking victims received assistance at this orphanage. The government could refer trafficking victims to NGOs that accept, but do not specialize in assisting, trafficking victims; however, the government did not report referring any victims to assistance from NGOs or other service providers. Without a formal identification process, victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system, facing detention or penalization. In previous years, reports indicated the government arrested and jailed individuals engaged in commercial sex, some of whom may have been trafficking victims, without verifying their ages or attempting to identify indicators of trafficking; it is unknown whether the government punished any individuals for engaging in commercial sex during this reporting period. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, no such victims were identified during the reporting period. An international organization, in partnership with the government, provided medical care and psychological services for demobilized child soldiers. No other specialized care was available for child or adult trafficking victims in the country. The law allows victims to file civil suits against the government or their alleged traffickers for restitution; however, there were no reports this occurred during the reporting period.
The government maintained minimal anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. During the reporting period the government established the national DDRR Consultative Committee, responsible for engaging armed groups in the formal DDRC process, including obtaining the release of child soldiers and other children being used by armed groups and ensuring appropriate care is provided; however, they did not report any tangible decisions for the reporting period. The government did not make any progress in drafting or implementing a national action plan to combat trafficking. The government did not have an effective policy on holding foreign labor recruiters liable for fraudulent recruitment. The government did not report any efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking. The government did not report any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, CAR is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, women subjected to forced prostitution, and adults subjected to forced labor. Observers report most victims are CAR citizens exploited within the country, and a smaller number transported between CAR and Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, or South Sudan. Traffickers, as well as transient merchants and herders, subject children to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, shops, and street vending. Within the country, children are at risk of becoming victims of forced labor, and Ba’aka (pygmy) minorities are at risk of becoming victims of forced agricultural work, especially in the region around the Lobaye rainforest. Girls are at risk of being exploited in commercial sex in urban centers. Girls forced into marriages are often subjected to domestic servitude, sexual slavery, and possibly sex trafficking.
Surges in violent conflict in recent years resulted in chronic instability and the displacement of nearly one million people, increasing the vulnerability of men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. In March 2017, more than 402,000 people remained internally displaced and approximately 464,000 sought refuge in neighboring countries. There is limited information about the forms of exploitation believed to have increased as a result of years of conflict. The recruitment and use of children by armed groups, at times through force, particularly among armed groups aligned with the former Seleka government and the organized village self-defense units fighting against it known as the anti-Balaka, has been widely documented. An international organization reported between 6,000 and 10,000 children were recruited by armed groups during the latest conflict through 2015; some remain under the control of these armed groups. On May 5, 2015, as part of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation, 10 armed groups operating in the country agreed to release all children under their control and cease recruitment of child soldiers; however, an international organization reports that during the reporting period, some armed groups are recruiting child soldiers again. Between April and September 2016, 389 children were separated from armed groups. The program for the withdrawal, reintegration, and reintegration into the community of Children Associated with Armed Forces or Groups (EAFGA), which began with the signing of the Bangui Forum Agreement in May 2015, continued and to date 7,506 children were removed from armed groups through this program. The government remained without an effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program. Children formerly associated with armed groups remained at risk of re-recruitment; for example, one armed group re-recruited approximately 150 children in January 2016. Additionally, reports indicated that some anti-Balaka fighters held ethnic Peuhl women and girls as sex slaves. UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) helped to facilitate the rescue of over 90 Peuhl held hostages in southwest for many months.
MINUSCA has over 10,000 peacekeeping forces and police in CAR to protect civilians, provide security, support humanitarian operations, and promote and protect human rights, among other objectives; however, allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers within MINUSCA persisted during the reporting period. The UN reported receiving 50 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by MINUSCA Peacekeepers by December 2016, including 16 incidents which reportedly occurred in 2016, some of which may have involved trafficking victims. Peacekeepers from the DRC and the Republic of Congo allegedly perpetrated the majority of these 50 reported cases; however, soldiers from Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, and Mauritania were also reportedly involved. In August 2016, MINUSCA peacekeepers and UN civilian staff were also accused of multiple cases of sexual abuse in the country, including the alleged rape by a UN peacekeeper of a 12-year-old girl. More than 100 cases were reported since MINUSCA’s inception in September, 2014.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operates in CAR’s eastern regions, continued to enslave Central African, South Sudanese, Congolese, and Ugandan boys and girls for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants. Some of these children may have been taken back and forth across borders into South Sudan or the DRC. In 2016, the LRA abducted 299 people, compared to 217 people abducted in the previous reporting period. One quarter of the abductions were children, 41 of whom are still missing or in captivity. The LRA also committed abductions, forced girls into marriages, and forced children to commit atrocities such as looting and burning villages, killing village residents, and abducting or killing other children. During the reporting period, an international organization reported the LRA abducted at least six children, from a mining camp site in Lipoutou, and 16 people were attacked and abducted by LRA forces in Mbomou; however, it is unclear if they were consequently enslaved. Similar actions by other armed groups are frequently attributed to the LRA.