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1 Apr, 2021 13:37

Controversial Russian mercenary group linked to ‘grave human rights abuses’ in Central African Republic, new UN probe claims

Controversial Russian mercenary group linked to ‘grave human rights abuses’ in Central African Republic, new UN probe claims

A UN team has alleged that a controversial private military contractor, brought in by the embattled government of the Central African Republic, is behind a series of troubling and violent attacks in the civil-war-wracked nation.

The working group tasked with assessing the situation in the Central African Republic announced on Tuesday that its members were “deeply disturbed” by a purported link between the mercenaries from the Russian 'Wagner Group' of paramilitaries and potential “grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law.”

The company’s contractors have been operating alongside forces loyal to Faustin-Archange Touadéra, the country’s current president, who was sworn in on Tuesday but has faced insurrection from rebel troops. The new UN analysis noted also that the Wagner Group works closely with the 15,000 UN troops stationed in the republic as part of a peacekeeping mission.

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According to the investigative panel, which does not appear to have included any Russian rapporteurs, “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.”

“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,” the group said in a statement.

In 2019, an investigation by Moscow’s liberal Novaya Gazeta newspaper claimed that there were links between the Wagner Group and a brutal torture and execution in Syria. A man depicted in a graphic clip, during which a purported Islamic State soldier was killed by troops supposedly speaking Russian, was claimed to be an employee of the shadowy military company.

When asked about the footage, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said he had not watched it and it was not on the presidential administration's radar. He added that it had nothing to do with the Russian Armed Forces' mission in Syria. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has any knowledge of the Wagner Group’s operations.

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