UN experts reported on “serious human rights violations” committed by Russian security companies, including mass shootings, mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, forced disappearances, forced displacement of civilians, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities, and attacks on humanitarian workers.
Robert Lansing Institute adds that there is broad connection of Russian mercenaries to a series of violent attacks that have occurred since the presidential elections on December 27.
Moscow officially gives the number of Russian military experts in Central African Republic at 535. But according to press reports, the actual number is much higher. The experts said they were “deeply disturbed by the interconnected roles of Russian private contractors.
There are two Russian PMCs in CAR: Wagner, a private security company, provides more than a thousand instructors to the Central African Republic, ensures the security of various institutions, and plays a leading role in the training of the Presidential Guard and the army. Sewa Security Services is another Russian company operating in the Central African Republic. According to their business cards, some of its employees are “Presidential Advisers”. Sewa Security Services is Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU. Sewa Security guards airports, ministries and are part of President Touadera’s security detail.
The Wagner Group was accused of human rights violations more than once, including torture and summary executions, like that of Hammadi Taha al-But in Syria.
Russia is positioning itself as an opponent of France in Africa. The core Moscow’s message: Russia – unlike France – has the necessary clout and credibility to solve CAR problems. Step by step, Putin’s Russia is preparing to challenge the former colonial power France for political and economic supremacy in CAR.
According to the UN expert group’s report, the Russian ambassador in Bangui, Vladimir Titorenko, publicly threatened the rebel leader Francois Bozize with death. He said, “the former president should renounce the armed struggle; otherwise, he would be neutralized by the armed forces.” So, the Russian ambassador has clearly exceeded his competencies as a foreign diplomat.
Local security forces in CAR are coordinated by Mr. Zakharov. He is also responsible for the justice and correctional facilities in CAR, as well as the police and gendarmerie of the country.
Zakharov has links with the FSB, the Russian internal intelligence service, and has obtained Central African nationality. The FSB is also a handler of the Wagner Group, thus pointing out Zakharov is coordinating the efforts by this PMC in the country.
Viktor Zakharov is also reasonably suspected of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. He particularly co-organized beauty contests in CAR, and the winners were later involved in sexual acts and escorting both local top-level officials and Russian bosses who came to CAR on the delegations.
Russians abuse UN facilities in CAR. There were regular meetings between UN staff and “Russian advisers”, Russian visits to MINUSCA bases, and medical evacuations of injured “Russian trainers” to MINUSCA facilities. As the mission objectives for Russian mercenaries are a far cry from those for UN peacekeepers, the fact that paramilitary groups like Wagner use MINUSCA facilities runs counter to the UN charter, especially amid human rights violations.
Significant human rights issues in CAR with Russian involvement included: torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; crimes of violence against women and girls; criminalization of same-sex conduct.
For example, Russian mercenaries were responsible for violating the human rights of Muslim coffee trader Mahamat Nour, who was arrested, detained, and tortured in Bambari. After five days in detention, Mahamat was released and taken to a hospital in Bangui, where he received treatment for an amputated finger, lacerations, and bruises.
By direction of Russian security advisers who crush opposition movements and mass protests, to serve the interests of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, on June 15, two French journalists, Charles Bouessel and Florent Vergnes, and local political activist Joseph Bendouga were arrested, detained, and beaten by members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry (OCRB). The arrests occurred while the three men were reporting and photographing a peaceful demonstration in Bangui.
The methods used by Russian advisers to effect the fight against the opposition correlate with those by the FSB in Russia, including arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances.
The Russians are also seeing the President through undermining the influence by the parliament.
Totally, Russian mercenaries are allegedly responsible for nearly 83 human rights violations, which involved 103 victims – that is to say, 9.4 per cent of the total number of documented violations in Ouaka, Haute-Kotto, Bamingui-Bangoran, Ouham Pendé and Ouham.
In the prefectures of Nana-Grébizi, Ouham and Ouham-Pendé women and girls were attacked with extreme brutality in isolated areas while carrying out livelihood activities. In one such case, a victim was gang raped by 11 perpetrators and her entire family was killed.