“Crisis” is a word often used over the last six years to describe the situation in the Central African Republic. More than 70 percent of the country remains in the control of armed groups and a fragile peace accord is being tested by recent killings in the northwest. But parts of the country under central government control, including the capital, Bangui, were considered safe for journalists and political opponents to operate. Until now.
Last weekend, two French journalists and a Central African political opponent were violently assaulted and arrested by members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB) during a peaceful demonstration. The journalists, Charles Bouessel and Florent Vergnes, both work for news agency Agence France-Presse and were covering a protest organized by a new opposition movement. The Minister of Interior had banned the event two days prior.
The OCRB has a long track record of excessive use of force. Human Rights Watch extensively reported on abuses committed by OCRB members, including the killing of at least 18 people between April 2015 and March 2016, and has called on Central African authorities to consider disbanding the unit.
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