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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

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

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs