September 3, 2015 / 8:37 PM / 4 years ago

U.N. experts accuse Chad of abuses in Central Africa conflict

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Chadian security forces have been guilty of numerous abuses against civilians in the conflict in Central African Republic, including indiscriminate border killings, a panel that monitors U.N. sanctions said in a confidential report seen by Reuters.

Central African Republic (CAR), a former French colony, descended into chaos in March 2013 when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking reprisals by “anti-balaka” Christian militias who drove tens of thousands of Muslims from the south in a de facto partition of the landlocked country.

Rival armed groups agreed to a peace accord in May, but the conflict has continued at a lower intensity, and a transitional government has been unable to assert authority over CAR’s vast, mineral-rich territory. Among the problems are trade in “blood diamonds” and poaching.

Another problem is that government forces of neighbouring Chad have targeted CAR refugees attempting to cross the border and return home.

“The panel collected evidence establishing that individual members of Chadian security and armed forces have committed a number of human rights violations against Central African nationals,” said the expert panel’s report, seen by Reuters.

“These violations include killings of civilians, looting and destruction of civilian property, forced displacement, extortion, illegal detention and violation of the right of return of Central African refugees in Chad,” it added.

Chad’s U.N. mission did not have an immediate response when contacted about the allegations.

The panel said many people it interviewed described how Chadian security forces beat or fired on civilians trying to return home to CAR from Chad, where they had fled to escape the fighting.

“According to victims and witnesses, civilians crossing the border are indiscriminately targeted, day and night, including women and children,” it said, adding that this was a violation of international humanitarian law.

The report said that some people were allowed to cross into CAR after paying bribes to Chadian forces, while others were killed, wounded or detained despite those bribes.

After humanitarian groups complained to the Chadian government about the targeting of civilians in this manner, it issued what the panel described as an “urgent cable” on May 19 explaining that the border with CAR remained closed though there were no orders to shoot people approaching it.

But “indiscriminate shootings” continued after the cable was issued.

It said that since May 2014 in the village of Moyen Sido alone, there have been 42 cases of CAR refugees being killed and 140 injured while attempting to cross the border.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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