CAR rebels kill with impunity, says HRW

2013-09-19 07:48
(Picture: AFP)

(Picture: AFP)

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New York - A rebel group that helped overthrow Central African Republic's president shoots, loots and rapes with "complete impunity", Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

In a report that detailed scores of killings of women, children and the elderly since the Seleka coalition seized power in March, HRW urged the United Nations and African states to take a tougher line with the transitional government.

The rebels have embarked on a reign of terror, HRW said. "With no checks on their power, the Seleka rule arbitrarily and with complete impunity," its report, grimly titled "I Can Still Smell The Dead," alleged.

Based on research between April and June, the rights group said it had documented evidence of scores of summary killings and reports of hundreds more.

The government has spoken of more than 100 dead in a new wave of atrocities in recent days.

Seleka leaders "talk openly" about the way they kill people and burn villages, said Lewis Mudge, who wrote the report.

HRW said it interviewed one truck driver whose wife and 18-month old daughter were killed to force him to transport goods stolen by the rebels.

Seleka took nine men they believed to be former soldiers to a river outside the capital, Bangui, and killed five before they realized the men had not been in the army, the report added.

Torture sessions

HRW said interim President Michel Djotodia, a former Seleka leader, had denied the rebels were involved when he was interviewed. Djotodia blamed followers of former president Francois Bozize or "fake Seleka".

Djotodia on Friday announced the dissolution of Seleka, without saying how he would disarm the group. The government has committed to hold elections next year.

Bozize ruled Central African Republic for 10 years until he fled a looming Seleka advance in March.

The HRW report said Bozize was also tainted by abuses. "Bozize was present during torture sessions at" Bossembele military camp, north of Bangui, according to released prisoners quoted in the report. 

"He had a villa flanked by two concrete standing cells in which individuals were left until they died," the prisoners added.

HRW called on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Seleka leaders, for the United Nations to help finance the African force in the country and for African states to send extra troops to protect civilians.

HRW's UN specialist Philippe Bolopion said Central African Republic has become "a forgotten crisis".

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