GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. investigation of human rights abuses in Central African Republic launched Monday in a bid to head off possible genocide.
The chair of the investigation, Bernard Acho Muna, a lawyer from Cameroon who was deputy chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said he and former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castaneda and Mauritanian human rights lawyer Fatimata M'Baye will fly to the capital Bangui later Monday and begin the investigation Tuesday.
Before departing Monday, Muna told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva that the mandate of the yearlong investigation of human rights abuses since the start of 2013 is to "stop any advances toward genocide."
Flanked by M'Baye, Muna said their hope is that their presence in the country and the investigative work they plan to do will be a signal to propagandists and hate-mongers not to act on the fervor they whip up and "promote killing."
"We are ready to take a firm stand to prosecute people who are already making hate propaganda," Muna said, adding that "the genocide always starts with propaganda" by persuading others that a certain population is evil and should be eliminated.
In December, the 15-nation U.N. Security Council mandated an investigation of human rights abuses in Central African Republic for an initial period of one year to compile information and help identify perpetrators with an aim toward prosecuting them. Muna said an initial report would be made within six months.
The International Criminal Court based at The Hague, Netherlands, also has opened a preliminary investigation as Christian and Muslim groups clash in the country.