UN Experts Describe Reports Of Major Abuses By Russian Mercenaries In Central Africa
By RFE/RL March 31, 2021
UN experts have voiced concern over reports of "grave human rights abuses" by Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic (CAR), where they have been backing the government's military in the country's ongoing civil war.
"The experts have received, and continue to receive, reports of grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, attributable to the private military personnel operating jointly with CAR's armed forces and in some instances UN peacekeepers," the experts said in a statement on March 31.
The alleged abuses include mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, forced disappearances, forced displacement of civilians, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities, and attacks on humanitarian workers.
The experts said they were "deeply disturbed by the interconnected roles of [Russian private contractors from] Sewa Security Services, Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU, and a Russian-based organization popularly known as the [Vagner] Group."
They spoke of concerns over the mercenaries' connection "to a series of violent attacks that have occurred since the presidential elections" on December 27.
CAR has been in turmoil since a 2013 rebellion ousted former President Francois Bozize. About a quarter of its 5 million people are displaced.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera was sworn in for a second five-year term on March 30 after winning December's election.
Government security forces have been backed by a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping contingent as well as hundreds of Russian and Rwandan paramilitaries and soldiers deployed in late December.
They also said they were "disturbed to learn of the proximity and interoperability between those contractors" and the UN force.
Russia has denied Vagner mercenaries are in the African country, saying only military instructors have been sent to train government soldiers since 2018.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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