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CAR: Experts alarmed by government’s use of “Russian trainers”, close contacts with UN peacekeepers

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GENEVA (31 March 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.

ENDS\ The experts: **Jelena Aparac (Chair-Rapporteur), Lilian Bobea, Ravindran Daniel, Chris Kwaja, Sorcha MacLeod, Working Group on the use of mercenaries; Anita Ramasastry,** Dante Pesce (Chair), Surya Deva (Vice-Chair), Elżbieta Karska, and **Githu Muigai, ***Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises*; **Tae-Ung Baik **(Chair), Henrikas Mickevičius, (Vice Chair), Luciano Hazan, Bernard Duhaime, and Aua Balde, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; **Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment\ *The** Working Groups** and Special Rapporteurs **are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.*\ *For more information and **media requests please contact Khaled Hassine (khassine@ohchr.org) and Sofia Palli (spalli@ohchr.org), or write to *mercenaries@ohchr.org\ *For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / *rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)\ *Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter *@UN_SPExperts.*