Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) 🇨🇫, whom witnesses identified as Russian, appear to have summarily executed, tortured, and beaten civilians since 2019.
According to HRW, several Western governments, as well as United Nations experts and special rapporteurs, have discovered evidence that Russian-linked forces operating in the CAR include a significant number of members of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military security contractor with apparent ties to the Russian government.
On April 15, the United Nations announced that it would investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of at least ten people.
Between February 2019 and November 2021, HRW interviewed 21 people in person and 19 others over the phone, including 10 victims and 15 witnesses, about alleged abuses committed by men with white skin speaking Russian, a language the witnesses recognized.
According to witnesses, the men were carrying military-grade weapons and dressed in beige khakis, scarves to cover their faces, military boots, gloves, and sunglasses.
Both the army and the rebels are accused of committing crimes against civilians by the UN, non-governmental organizations, and CAR’s former colonial ruler, France.
“The Central African government has every right to seek international security assistance, but it cannot allow foreign forces to kill and otherwise abuse civilians with impunity,” said Ida Sawyer of HRW.Ida Sawyer, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
“To demonstrate its respect for the rule of law and put an end to these abuses, the government should immediately investigate and prosecute all forces responsible for murder, unlawful detention, and torture,” Sawyer said.
HRW reported that on July 21, last year, 12 unarmed men were shot dead at a checkpoint near Bossangoa, northwest of the capital Bangui, by Russian-speaking men.
The New York-based group also claimed that in June of last year, men were arbitrarily detained, tortured, and killed in the street in the central town of Alindao.
HRW also stated that it “documented cases of detention and torture in Bambari by Russia-linked forces in 2019.”
They also stated that a former detainee, Mahamat Nour Mamadou, said that Russian-speaking soldiers beat him in January 2019:
“They beat me badly on my legs with iron rods and knives. My ankles were cuffed. One spoke through a translator and said, ‘We will cut off your fingers.’ I said, ‘Just cut my hand off.’”
It added that it had written to the governments of the CAR and Russia but had received no response.
Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned “serious human rights violations” in the CAR last month, including killings and sexual violence against civilians committed not only by rebel groups but also by the military and their Russian allies.