By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) – Russian soldiers working for the Wagner Group have violently harassed and intimidated civilians, including peacekeepers, journalists, aid workers, and minorities in the Central African Republic (CAR), UN experts said Wednesday.
The experts said the "so-called Russian instructors" are from the Wagner Group, made up of private military contractors that operate in different parts of the world.
"We are extremely concerned about intimidation and recent reports of violent harassment by private military and security contractors against individuals and communities," the experts said.
They also asserted that the Russian instructors operating as military and security personnel work closely with police and the CAR army, also known as FACA, and engage in the arrest and detention of individuals.
That means victims often have no access to justice.
"They simply don't dare lodge official complaints, so impunity for abuses continues for all perpetrators – FACA as well as military and security officers working for the Wagner group," said the experts.
Earlier in October, a special inquiry commission set up by the CAR government on violence in the country found that human rights and international humanitarian law violations have been committed, including by "Russian instructors."
- Experts urge CAR government to end ties with Wagner
The UN experts also raised concerns earlier this year that many forces, including the Wagner Group, are committing systemic and grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations.
The violations include arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and summary execution, an issue that continues unabated and unpunished.
The experts also received reports that Wagner Group officers have committed rape and sexual violence against women, men and young girls in many parts of the country, said the statement.
It is not clear how many people have been victims of sexual violence because survivors are terrified to bring their cases to justice for fear of retaliation.
"Being denied access to justice and remedies is a sign of the impunity prevailing in the country," they said.
"We call on the CAR government to end all relationships with private military and security personnel, particularly the Wagner Group," the experts said.
They urged the authorities to comply with their obligations under international law.
"They must ensure unhindered access to justice and redress to all victims of violations, including abuses committed by Russian private military and security personnel," the experts said.
The expert group included Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on torture; Morris Tidball-Binz special rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions; Jelena Aparac, who is a chair- rapporteur and other members of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights; and experts from the UN Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations.