Expressed concerns about their connections to a series of violent attacks that have occurred since the presidential elections on 27 December 2020.
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 31, 2021 – A group of UN experts today expressed alarm at the increased recruitment and use of private military and foreign security contractors by the Government of Central African Republic, and their close contacts with UN peacekeepers.
The Working Group on mercenaries said they were deeply disturbed by the interconnected roles of Sewa Security Services, Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU, and a Russian-based organisation popularly known as the Wagner Group. In particular, they expressed concerns about their connections to a series of violent attacks that have occurred since the presidential elections on 27 December 2020.
In addition, the experts said they were disturbed to learn of the proximity and interoperability between those contractors and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). In particular, they pointed to coordinated meetings with “Russian advisors”, their presence at MINUSCA bases, as well as medical evacuations of wounded “Russian trainers” to MINUSCA bases.
“This blurring of the lines between civil, military and peacekeeping operations during the hostilities creates confusion about the legitimate targets and increases the risks for widespread human rights and humanitarian law abuses,” said the experts.
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 (FACA) and in some instances UN peacekeepers. Among the violations are reports of mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture during interrogations, forced disappearances, forced displacement of the civilian population, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities, violations of the right to health, and increasing attacks on humanitarian actors.
“Unacceptably, there seem to be no investigations and no accountability for these abuses,” the experts said. “The close connections between the various actors, along with the lack of transparency, further jeopardises chances of any impartial investigation and ensuring accountability for those abuses and violations.
“Greater clarity on the roles of ‘international partners’ and accountability is urgently needed in order to achieve sustainable peace and stability in Central African Republic,” they said.
Experts called on the Government and their ‘international partners’ to comply with their obligations under international law, in particular to hold accountable all perpetrators of grave violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law.
The experts have also conveyed their concerns about the above allegations directly to the Governments of the Central African Republic and the Russian Federation, and, to the extent possible, the companies concerned.
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
GENEVA, Switzerland, February 12, 2021 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for humanitarian access to reach tens of thousands of people in dire need after they fled escalating violence, clashes, and military operations in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country where almost one third of the population is now forcibly displaced.
Increasing attacks against humanitarian workers and blocked key supply routes are hampering UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations’ ability to assist internally displaced Central Africans. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated, increasing the suffering of an already vulnerable population.
Humanitarians have been targeted and have had their offices looted and their vehicles stolen. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 66 such incidents occurred in January, the highest number ever recorded in a single month in CAR. In December 2020, one humanitarian worker was killed, and five others injured.
Clashes, military operations, and blockades along the main road connecting CAR to Cameroon are preventing the delivery of supplies, causing prices in affected areas to skyrocket as much as 240 per cent for imported staple foods and up to 44 per cent for local goods. This also impacts the delivery of humanitarian relief from the capital Bangui with dire consequences for people in urgent need of food, health care products, water and sanitation, essential household items, and shelter.
Despite these challenges, UNHCR is working closely with national authorities, humanitarian partners, and the United Nations peacekeeping operation, MINUSCA, to continue distributing lifesaving items at accessible sites. Last week, our supplies reached some 4,600 people from over 740 households in Bouar, a town some 450 kilometers from Bangui.
Since December when the crisis began, OCHA estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced inside CAR. Most are living in deplorable conditions in the bush for fear of fresh attacks on their villages.
According to figures from state authorities in neighbouring countries, at least 107,000 people have also fled across borders into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (92,053), Cameroon (5,730), Chad (6,726), and the Republic of Congo (2,984). This brings the total number of Central Africans displaced in their country and across the region to over 1.5 million – nearly a third of the country’s total population of 4.8 million.
Inside CAR, UNHCR continues to receive reports of grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, torture, extortion, armed robbery, assault, restricted movement, expropriation and looting. Sexual violence – including against young children – is on the rise as insecurity creates a climate of lawlessness and impunity.
UNHCR teams have reported recurrent violations of the humanitarian principles of the IDP sites. We reiterate our call for meaningful dialogue to de-escalate tensions, as well as sustained and robust support from the international community to ensure that the effective humanitarian response is resumed and prospects for solutions are strengthened.