Russian contractors accused of abuses

U.N. experts expressed alarm yesterday over reports of executions and other abuses by Russian security contractors in the Central African Republic and over their close contacts with U.N. peacekeepers.

Russia first sent security contractors to CAR in 2018. It stepped up its support late last year to help the government fend off a rebel advance launched before the December 27 presidential election.

Since then, the contractors have accompanied national forces as they retake towns from the rebels, CAR’s government has said.

The contractors include members of Russia’s Wagner Group, the U.N. experts said in a statement. Wagner Group members have fought clandestinely in support of Russian forces in Syria and Ukraine, Reuters has reported.

The experts said that they were concerned by reports of human rights abuses by the contractors, including mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions and torture during interrogations.

“Unacceptably, there seem to be no investigations and no accountability for these abuses,” the experts said.

The Russian military, which supervises the presence of the contractors in CAR, and CAR’s government spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The experts also said they were disturbed to learn of the “proximity and interoperability” between the contractors and the U.N.’s MINUSCA peacekeeping mission, which has more than 13,000 uniformed personnel.

They cited coordinated meetings that mission members held with Russian contractors and medical evacuations of wounded contractors to MINUSCA bases.

“Greater clarity on the roles of ‘international partners’ and accountability is urgently needed,” they said.

A MINUSCA spokesman declined to comment.

The mission has previously defended its participation alongside the contractors in a coordination mechanism led by the CAR government. It said such communication was needed to avoid battlefield accidents and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations.

CAR has failed to find stability 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 Tuesday after winning December’s election.

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