Press Release / / 06.14.21

Russia-Linked Wagner Group Committing Mass Atrocities Against Civilians in Central Africa

Breaking Investigative Report by CNN with The Sentry:

“Looting and Killing Machine” Russia-Linked Wagner Group Committing Mass Atrocities Against Civilians in Central Africa

  • Breaking Investigation Details Killing and Executions, Torture, Pillage, Kidnapping for Ransom, Mass Rapes, “Civilians Hunted Like Animals”
  • Kremlin-Linked Mercenary Army on Rampage to Control Gold and Diamond Mines in the Central African Republic and Advance Russian Influence in Africa

June 14, 2021 (New York, Washington DC, and undisclosed locations in Central Africa) – Over several months, The Sentry has worked closely with CNN on a confidential investigation, obtaining testimony and documents implicating the Wagner Group, a shadowy Kremlin-linked defense and security firm, in an array of mass atrocities against civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The investigative report airing today on CNN, along with an article to be published on CNN.com, details evidence of mass killings, extrajudicial executions, torture, pillage, kidnapping for ransom, the burning of villages, and mass rapes. The investigation further reveals how the Wagner Group’s private army of foreign mercenaries, in alliance with government armed forces loyal to CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, are unleashing this violence to control and exploit for private gain areas rich in gold, diamonds, and valuable minerals.

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “In the Central African Republic, transnational criminal networks have captured state institutions and taken entire communities hostage. This is a looting and killing machine, serving the interests of the Central African president and his foreign allies, in particular the Kremlin-linked private army known as the Wagner Group, as they plunder the country’s gold, diamonds, and other mineral wealth. This lucrative new model for plunder represents a rapidly spreading threat, delivering death and devastation and undermining peace and security not only in Central Africa but in other hotspots around the world. Urgent actions by the international community, including hard-hitting financial measures by governments and international financial institutions, should aim to stop the hemorrhaging in CAR and elsewhere.”

Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “We are witnessing and have collected evidence of unprecedented human suffering in the Central African Republic, where civilians are right now being hunted like animals. Since December, Central African military forces and foreign mercenaries recruited by the Wagner Group have been engaged in an orchestrated series of brutal and greed-fueled military operations. Seeking to eliminate rebel factions they consider hostile to Russian interests in areas rich with natural resources, these private paramilitary forces have been involved in large-scale and systematic acts of torture, forced disappearance, extrajudiciary executions and mass killings, pillaging, kidnapping for ransom, and mass rapes. By joining forces, international and regional actors can speak out and take action together to aid a population being decimated by this war over the spoils of corrupt power.”

The Wagner Group and related entities and individuals are currently subject to sanctions designations by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

URGENT POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS:

In conjunction with the investigative report, The Sentry has released a series of recommendations to governments and financial institutions around the world to help halt the ongoing atrocities, human rights violations, devastation, and grave human suffering at the hands of the Wagner Group and the Touadéra regime’s armed forces.

  • The United States should review its current sanctions designations related to private security companies—including the network of companies linked to the Wagner Group—and individuals operating in the Central African Republic. It should look to implement additional targeted network sanctions, in conjunction with its international partners, under appropriate sanctions authorities, including its Global Magnitsky, transnational criminal organizations, and country sanctions programs, on leadership, members, associated entities, and enablers, particularly those facilitating illicit financial flows out of CAR.
  • The United Kingdom and European Union should, in conjunction with their international partners, use their Global Human Rights Sanctions regimes and country programs to implement targeted network sanctions on private security companies perpetrating human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, in particular the Wagner Group, its leadership, members, associated entities, and enablers. The US, EU, and UK sanctions should be closely coordinated for maximum impact.
  • The international community, led by the EU, the US, and the UK, should coordinate on actions to end political support for the Touadéra regime, which has facilitated the hijacking of the Central African state by transnational organized crime networks and armed groups, unless steps are taken toward long-term peace, governance, and transparency. To this end, the EU and the US should stop any military cooperation with the CAR government. The US, the EU, and international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should collectively suspend non-humanitarian, direct financial assistance to the CAR government. Benchmarks related to governance, democracy, and human rights should be clearly noted to the Central African authorities as pre-conditions for any further assistance.
  • The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) should, under its mandate, more actively and transparently take steps to respond to serious and credible threats to the civilian population, document violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights, and immediately investigate the report’s allegations. Following the completion of its investigations, MINUSCA should share its findings with international partners capable of taking further steps towards accountability for any alleged violations.
  • The UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries should build on its recent statement on the alleged activities of the Wagner Group and launch a full and comprehensive investigation into the report’s allegations of serious human rights violations and international crimes. The Working Group should also engage the EU, US, and other donor governments to urge the Central African government to end the use of mercenaries in the country’s conflict.
  • Banks and financial institutions should conduct enhanced customer due diligence on individuals and entities with ties to private security companies operating in the Central African Republic, as they may pose a higher risk for illicit financial activities such as sanctions evasion, money laundering, and corruption, and should refresh such diligence on a periodic basis. Banks and financial institutions should also take steps to identify accounts beneficially owned or controlled by individuals or entities linked to the Wagner Group and freeze such accounts to the extent required by applicable law or bank policy.

WATCH THE REPORT: https://thesentry.org/reports/cnn-central-african-republic/

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Madeline Robinson, Communications Associate, mrobinson@thesentry.org

About The Sentry

The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.