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Rights Groups Call for UN Peacekeeping Mission in CAR

Two Million in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in CAR
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Two Million in Need of Humanitarian Assistance in CAR

Two leading rights groups are calling on the United Nations to send a peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic to help stop the spiraling sectarian violence.

Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch follow field visits by both rights groups to the Central African Republic to document some of the sectarian violence first hand. Their findings are brutal and graphic. Amnesty's report focuses on the capital, Bangui. It describes, for example, how Christian anti-balaka militias went door-to-door, killing about 60 Muslim men.

Over the past two weeks alone, the United Nations estimates that fighting in C.A.R. has killed roughly 600 people and uprooted 210,000 others. Christian militia groups are staging bloody reprisals against Muslims - after many were themselves terrorized by members of the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition, which staged a coup in March.

HRW's report focuses on the C.A.R.'s northwestern Ouham province, and again describes bloody attacks between Christians and Muslims.

HRW's Emergencies Director, Peter Bouckaert, authored the report, and has visited CAR twice in recent weeks.

"We documented many cases in which both Christians and Muslims were targeted because of their religion and their attackers made statements like, 'we will kill all the Muslims in the country.' We've documented where children as young as three years old had their throats cut by the attackers. So we're talking about extreme violence and communal violence. And once that communal violence sets in, it's very difficult to stop," said Bouckaert.

Both groups are calling on the United Nations to send in a peacekeeping force to protect civilians. Bouckaert said that while French and African forces in the C.A.R. are making a difference in trying to halt the violence, it is not enough.

"We believe that's important, that a United Nations peacekeeping mission is deployed in the Central African Republic because that would also bring the monitoring capacity which is needed to monitor the abuses which are taking place. And also the political dimension; in terms of trying to find a political solution out of this bloodshed and to establish a government which actually has some credibility in the country," said Bouckaert.

France is expected to ask for more European support for its mission in the C.A.R. during a European Union summit Thursday and Friday. Bouckaert agrees that French and African forces need more boots on the ground.