The Wagner Group and Violations of Human Rights in the Central African Republic (CAR)

The Wagner Group and Violations of Human Rights in the Central African Republic (CAR)
The Central African Republic has suffered many hardships during the history, and although they experienced some stabilization with the Wagner’s help, violence and human rights violations have threatened humanitarian situation across different provinces, leading to internal displacement of many people and forcing many to leave their homes and live abroad as refugees. The current conditions have provoked a reaction from the European Union and the decision to sanction the Wagner Group.

The group initially attracted international attention in 2014 by supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and has been involved in many conflicts, including Syria, Sudan, Mozambique, and the Central African Republic since then. The group has been sanctioned for its activities in different countries and also for human rights abuses. As reported by some UN experts on mercenaries and human rights, civilians including peacekeepers, journalists, aid workers, and minorities in the CAR have been subject to violent harassment and intimidation by the Wagner Group. There have been also reports on the involvement of the Wagner Group in committing systematic and grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and summary execution. According to one of EU documents, Wagner is responsible for serious human rights abuses in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and Mozambique, including torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings (Polotico, 2021).

According to the European Council (2021), the Wagner Group has recruited, trained, and sent private military operators to conflict zones around the world to fuel violence, exploit natural resources, and terrify civilians in violation of international law, including international human rights law. Accordingly, the EU decided on the sanction to diminish the insurgent activities of the Wagner Group while showing its strong determination in taking action against those threatening international peace and security and breaching international law (European Council, 2021).

The Wagner group provides maintenance services, military equipment and training in the countries where they are deployed in the form of instructors; however, critics have frequently accused the group of rights abuses in the CAR and other African countries. According to the UN experts, civilians, including peacekeepers, journalists, aid workers and minorities in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been violently harassed and intimidated by the Russian instructors from the Wagner Group, working closely with the CAR army and police and engaging in the arrest and detention of individuals, which means individual victims often have no access to justice. There have been also reports that Wagner Group officers commit rape and sexual violence against women, men, and young girls in the many parts of the country. It is not clear how many people have been victims of sexual violence because survivors are afraid of bringing their cases to justice due to fear of retaliation (Reliefweb, 2021).

Russian mercenaries are claimed to be behind human rights abuses in the CAR. Some of the alleged violations reported by a UN expert group include mass summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogation and the forced displacement of the civilian population, about 240,000 of whom have fled their homes because of recent fighting. There have been also increased attacks on humanitarian organizations, along with forced disappearances. Although the UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) is investigating several incidents, there seems to be no adequate investigations accountability for such abuses (The Guardian, 2021). This means that failure to act on the part of the international community could worsen the situation in these areas and further endanger human rights.

European Council, 2021.
Reliefweb, 2021. CAR: Russian Wagner Group harassing and intimidating civilians – UN experts
POLITICO, 2021. EU to hit Russian mercenary group Wagner with sanctions.
The Guardian, 2021. Russian mercenaries behind human rights abuses in CAR, say UN experts,