A group of UN experts expressed alarm at increased recruitment and use of private military and foreign security contractors by the government of Central African Republic (CAR) and their close contact with UN peacekeepers.
The Working Group on Mercenaries, appointed by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, is “disturbed” by the inter-connected roles of Sewa Security Services, Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU and a Russian-based organisation known as the Wagner Group. In particular, the group expressed concern about connections to a series of violent attacks since presidential elections on 27 December 2020.
The experts added they were disturbed to learn of the proximity and inter-operability between contractors and the UN Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA). They pointed to co-ordinated meetings with “Russian advisors”, their presence at MINUSCA bases, as well as medical evacuations of wounded “Russian trainers” to MINUSCA bases.
“This blurring of lines between civil, military and peacekeeping operations during hostilities creates confusion about legitimate targets and increases the risk for widespread human rights and humanitarian law abuses,” the experts said.
The 16-strong group of experts received and continues to receive, reports of grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, attributable to private military personnel operating jointly with CAR’s armed forces (FACA) and in some instances UN peacekeepers. Among violations are reports of mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture during interrogations, forced disappearances, forced displacement of civilians, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities, violations of the right to health, and attacks on humanitarian aid suppliers.
“Unacceptably, there seems to be no investigation and no accountability for these abuses. Close connections between those named, along with a lack of transparency, jeopardises chances of impartial investigation and accountability for abuses and violations.
“Greater clarity on the roles of ‘international partners’ and accountability is urgently needed to achieve sustainable peace and stability in CAR,” they said.
Experts called on government and its ‘international partners’ to comply with obligations under international law, in particular to hold accountable all perpetrators of grave violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law.