• Human Rights Watch urges end to impunity in war-torn nation
  • Anti-crime unit seen executing civilians in broad daylight

Central African Republic police summarily executed at least 18 people, some in the presence of bystanders in broad daylight, Human Rights Watch said, in the latest report detailing serious abuses in the war-torn country.

Members of the Central Office for the Repression of Banditry, a special unit mainly active in the capital, Bangui, executed robbery suspects and dumped their bodies in a river, the New York-based advocacy group said in a report, citing witnesses. One of the victims was a 14-year-old boy who was taken to a field and shot in the throat, according to the report. The killings took place over a period from April 2015 to March this year.

The head of the police unit was replaced by decree this month. The government, which took over in April from a transitional leadership, didn’t give a reason for his dismissal in the decree read on state radio.

“We’ve to some extent inherited this complicated situation from our predecessors,” Interior Minister Jean Serge Bokassa said by phone from Bangui. “It’s difficult to give our standpoint just on the basis of a report, but I can say that we wish justice to shed light on the allegations.”

Sexual Abuse

“The new government, with international support, made the right decision” by removing the director, Lewis Mudge, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the report. “Now it needs to show the Central African people that even ‘untouchable’ commanders will be held to account.”

Rights groups have repeatedly urged authorities in the country to bring perpetrators of serious abuses to justice. Thousands died in sectarian violence triggered by the ouster of President Francois Bozize in 2013. Most state institutions collapsed in the wake of the coup, which led to a proliferation of armed groups roaming the countryside.

The impunity has extended to French and African peacekeepers who’ve been accused of committing rape. The United Nations is investigating allegations that troops abused more than 100 girls in the Central African Republic, while Human Rights Watch this month accused UN soldiers from the Republic of Congo of killing civilians and militia members.

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