No identity, no rights

Central African Republic (the)Children’s rightsEconomic, social and cultural rightsNews

Bangui, 15 April 2016 – Without a birth certificate, you can be deprived of a large number of rights. How can you access health care without an identity document? How can you go to school? How can you vote? Most Central Africans, particularly young people, do not exist in the eyes of the State. In response to this problem, Avocats Sans Frontières is organising mobile judicial hearings: members of the court, the public prosecutor’s office and the court registry travel to villages to hand down supplementary rulings on birth certificates.

According to the legislation currently in force in the Central African Republic, it is no longer possible to draw up a birth certificate one month after birth. But this certificate is essential for any citizen, because it provides access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, without which the child has no right to attend school, access health services, inherit, own property and so on, and later on in life, no right to vote or to be elected.

Most Central Africans, particularly young people, do not have a valid registry office document. This situation is due to several factors. The first factor is economic: a birth certificate costs 1,500 CFA Francs (approximately EUR 2.5), when the average salary in CAR is 39,000 CFA Francs. Ludovic Kolengue Kaye, ASF Coordinator, explains how: “money is definitely one of the reasons for a low level of registration of births, but lack of information among the population and the complexity of formalities should also be mentioned“. There are also structural malfunctions amongst the registry office departments and competent authorities as a result of the looting, destruction and violence which affected the country in 2012-2013.

To solve this issue, ASF is organising mobile judicial hearings in Bangui (the capital) and Bouar (in the east of the country). This involves rectifying the non-existence of a birth certificate issued within the statutory deadlines, by an additional ruling handed down by a judge who officially recognises a person’s birth. Unlike traditional hearings, mobile judicial hearings are not held in courts and tribunals but instead in the district town hall for example, to make it easier for inhabitants to attend the hearing.

Arsène, Kestia’s father, aged 1, can testify to this: “I was never able to register my child at the town hall, due to lack of funds. I heard about the hearings from my local chief who went through the streets with a megaphone, and so I came along“.

Arsène et sa fille Kestia
Arsène and his daughter Kestia

Members of the court, the public prosecutor’s office, the court registry and the town hall are present. A doctor is also on site to determine the age of the child. ASF pays the costs of the supplementary rulings, equivalent to EUR 15.

My daughter will be able to enrol in school and this will make all the formalities throughout her lifetime much easier“, explains Léana, Esther’s mother.

Léana et sa fille Esther
Léana and her daughter Esther

Every mobile hearing is preceded by awareness-raising, informing the population of the importance of registering births, and informing the local authorities about the procedure and their role in the process of drawing up registry office documents.

To this day, six mobile hearings have already been organised, meaning that 403 children aged between 1 month and 16 years will be able to exercise their rights.

These activities are made possible thanks to the financial support of the European Union delegation and the French Embassy in the Central African Republic.

Photos © ASF/B. Langhendries