News / Africa

Rights Group: CAR Rebels Committing War Crimes

FILE - Armed fighters from the Seleka rebel alliance patrol the streets in pickup trucks to stop looting in Bangui, March 2013.
FILE - Armed fighters from the Seleka rebel alliance patrol the streets in pickup trucks to stop looting in Bangui, March 2013.
Anne Look
The International Federation for Human Rights [FIDH] says heavily-armed Seleka rebels have murdered at least 400 civilians with near impunity since seizing control of the Central African Republic on March 24. FIDH says it also has documented numerous rapes and forced disappearances connected to the rebels, as well as the continued use of child soldiers, during a research mission to the CAR in July.

State prosecutor for the Central African Republic, Alain Tolmo, said Wednesday that he has opened an investigation into the murder of five people whose bodies were found with their hands and feet tied in the Oubangui River in the capital, Bangui, on July 16 and 17.

He said two of the bodies have been identified and claimed by the families. He said this clearly was murder, and this heinous crime will not go unpunished.

Witnesses said the victims appeared to have been the missing passengers of a car that was stopped by Seleka rebels at a checkpoint in Bangui on July 13. Witnesses said rebels took the passengers away after finding T-shirts for ousted president Francois Bozize in the car.

Disturbing disappearances

A relative of one of the victims, Abdul Karim, spoke to VOA at the morgue as family members sobbed behind him. Karim said they just found the body in the morgue. He said that even if someone has committed a crime, he understands there are legal procedures. He said to have him disappear, then find him like this and not know why he was killed, however, is sad.

Witnesses say Seleka fighters also kidnapped an ex-government soldier on July 17 in the capital. His relatives say they found him dead a few hours later. Witnesses say the fighters had shot the soldier's brother in the head when he tried to intervene in the grab.

The violence in the capital comes amid what the International Federation for Human Rights calls a continued nationwide state of "anarchy" since the March 24 rebel takeover.   

The Federation, known by its French acronym FIDH, has released preliminary findings of its 10-day research mission to the CAR this month.

FIDH Africa Director and Researcher Marceau Sivieude said rebels are committing serious abuses against civilians that could qualify as war crimes.

He said researchers estimate that Seleka rebels have killed at least 400 civilians since the takeover. He said these murders took place as part of looting, extortion activities and kidnaps for ransom. He said there also are a lot of revenge killings against civilians resisting Seleka that have included firing on protestors in Bangui and razing villages.

FIDH says a "reliable source" has documented as many as 82 rapes by rebel fighters during the first month after the takeover but says it is suspected there were more.

Since the rebellion began in December, the Seleka rebel coalition has always been an unruly hodgepodge of armed groups in northern CAR.

Growing Seleka presence

It is difficult to get a reaction from Seleka to accusations, as the fighters are generally loyal to their individual chiefs.  Rebel leaders in the capital have previously blamed abuses on what they call "fake Seleka" and "uncontrolled elements."

FIDH says Seleka's ranks have grown considerably since the takeover from an estimated 5,000 fighters to as many as 20,000.

Sivieude says opportunist people from the CAR, as well as fighters from South Sudan and Chad, have joined to take advantage of looting.  He says being in Seleka has become a way to make money by looting and extorting money or goods from the population at checkpoints.  He says Seleka rebels harass civilians, demanding their money, livestock or crops.

Sivieude says crimes are taking place in near impunity, with only 16 arrest warrants issued by early July for primarily minor offenses.

Sivieude says civilians are living in "total insecurity" with no one to protect them.  He says government soldiers and police deserted during the coup.  He says the regional FOMAC force, with just 1,000 soldiers on the ground in the CAR, has an insufficient mandate and not enough manpower.

FIDH is calling on the U.N. Security Council and the African Union to put in place an international force to protect civilians in the CAR.

Jose Richard Pouambi contributed reporting from Bangui.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs