Central African Republic

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Tier 2 Watch List

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore CAR was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included establishing the Mixed Unit for Rapid Intervention and Repression of Sexual Violence to Women and Children (UMIRR) in Bangui; implementing a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program through which it identified and referred more than 3,000 child soldiers to care in partnership with an international organization; and providing training to law enforcement, judicial, and civil society actors. The government partnered with international organizations to implement standard operating procedures for identifying trafficking victims and launched an awareness raising campaign. Despite these achievements, the government did not report prosecuting or convicting any traffickers or holding accountable armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and adequately sentence traffickers, specifically government officials or armed group members who unlawfully recruit child soldiers; increase anti-trafficking training for the UMIRR and the Special Criminal Court so that they can effectively identify and prosecute trafficking cases and refer victims to care; take concrete steps to provide comprehensive protection services to victims of all forms of trafficking, and ensure trafficking victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; fully implement the child soldier reintegration national action plan; 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; in collaboration with NGOs and the international community, provide care to demobilized child soldiers and children in commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor; incorporate and implement programs to combat all forms of human trafficking in existing national action plans; 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.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Article 151 of the penal code criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and ,with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as kidnapping. If the offense involved a child victim of sex trafficking or forced labor similar to slavery, the prescribed penalties increased to five to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor. Articles 7 and 8 of the 2009 Labor Code criminalized forced and bonded labor and prescribed sufficiently stringent penalties of five to 10 years imprisonment.

The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any trafficking cases during the reporting period, and has not convicted any traffickers since 2008. Due to years of destabilizing conflict, formal judicial capacity outside the capital has been severely limited, which has led to the use of customary dispute resolution methods through which traditional chiefs or community leaders administer punishment for criminal acts. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government coordinated with an international organization to organize six anti-trafficking trainings for 99 government and civil society actors including law enforcement officials, magistrates, lawyers, and heads of human rights organizations.

In June 2017, supported by international organizations, the government inaugurated the UMIRR based in Bangui, composed of gendarme and police. The UMIRR focused on sexual violence against women and children in armed conflict, which included child soldiers and potential victims of forced labor or sexual exploitation. The UMIRR investigated an estimated 10 cases during the reporting period, but the government did not report the results of those investigations or if any involved trafficking crimes.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to identify and protect victims. The government reported identifying 39 child trafficking victims—the same number identified during the previous reporting period; however, it did not report additional details on the forms of exploitation endured or whether it provided care to any of these victims or otherwise referred them for services. An international organization identified 253 victims (177 women and 76 men), but did not report whether they were victims of forced labor or sex trafficking.

The Ministry of Justice, with support from an international organization, implemented standard operating procedures (SOPs) —developed in 2016—for the identification of victims during the reporting period; however, the government did not report the number of trained personnel familiar with the procedures, which raised questions about the effectiveness of the SOPs. 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. 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 NGOs or other service providers for assistance. 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 report providing legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

During the reporting period, the government’s Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program leveraged partnerships with NGOs, international organizations, and foreign governments to assist with the reintegration of child soldiers into civilian life, and provided them medical and psychological services, in addition to vocational training. The government reported identifying more than 3,000 children associated with armed groups, including more than 800 girls, and referred them to international organizations for care in 2017. 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.

PREVENTION

The government modestly increased prevention efforts during the reporting period. It partnered with an international organization to develop and launch an awareness raising campaign in 10 communes across the country and used community radio broadcasts in local languages to increase its reach. The government operated a 24-hour hotline operated by UMIRR, which was staffed by French and local language speakers; however, the government did not provide statistics on the number of calls it received. The government did not make any progress in drafting or implementing a national action plan to combat trafficking and remained without a lead entity or coordinating body to drive national anti-trafficking efforts.

As part of the International Day against the Enlistment of Children in Armed Groups, the government collaborated with international organizations to launch a one-month campaign against the recruitment of child soldiers in February 2018. Additionally, the government developed a national action plan to address the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and to plan for the reintegration of victims. The 2017-2021 National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan (RCPCA) aimed to re-establish peace and security, and support reconciliation, through disarmament and reintegration of child soldiers, in addition to promoting legal reform, seeking justice for victims, and improving access to education; however, implementation of the national action plan to address the recruitment of child soldiers and the RCPCA was limited due to budgetary shortfalls, lack of security across the country, and gaps in coordination within the government, and with donors. The government did not have an effective policy on holding foreign labor recruiters liable for fraudulent recruitment. 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.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, CAR is a source and transit 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 more than one million people, increasing the vulnerability of men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. In 2017, almost 700,000 people remained internally displaced inside the country and approximately 540,000 individuals sought refuge in neighboring countries. This is an increase from 402,000 internally displaced people and 464,000 refugees the previous year. An international organization has identified more than 10,000 refugees residing in CAR and more than 45,000 refugee returnees spontaneously returned to CAR in 2017. The government’s lack of control and presence in much of the country impairs its ability to effectively combat the worst forms of child labor nationwide. There is limited information about the forms of exploitation believed to have increased as a result of ongoing conflict.

The recruitment and use of children by armed groups, at times through force, has been widely documented; however, there were no verified cases of government-affiliated forces recruiting or using child soldiers during the reporting period. An international organization reported between 6,000 and 10,000 children were recruited by armed groups during the latest conflict through 2015. The government ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in September 2017 and ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in July 2016. The Ministry of Justice announced measures to incorporate into national legislation provisions to criminalize actions committed by members of armed groups to include the recruitment or use of children in armed conflict.

United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has more than 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 investigated six alleged sexual exploitation cases of MINUSCA peacekeepers, police, and UN civilian staff. More than 100 cases were reported since MINUSCA’s inception in September 2014. Peacekeepers from the DRC and the Republic of Congo allegedly perpetrated the majority of these 50 reported cases.

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operates in CAR’s eastern regions, continued to abduct boys and girls for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants during the reporting period. Due to regional counter-LRA operations, LRA activities decreased compared to previous years, but the group remains a threat.