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UN asks C.Africa to take action over Russian torture case

The United Nations has asked authorities in the Central African Republic to take action after Russian soldiers or mercenaries were accused of detaining and torturing a man for five days, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The victim, Mahamat Nour Mamadou, told UN investigators that he was held by a group of Russians in the central city of Bambari last month on suspicion of belonging to an armed militia. He said he was severely beaten and had a finger cut off.

The UN mission in the Central African Republic investigated the case and produced a detailed report that was seen by AFP.

“Based on statements and physical evidence, the UN mission can confirm that the victim has been ill-treated and tortured,” said UN spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci.

“The mission has informed officially the relevant Central African authorities and shared all supporting documents requesting follow-up action,” she added.

The United Nations does not have authority to arrest individuals in a country where it has peacekeepers and has turned to Bangui to ensure the perpetrators of the serious crime are held responsible.

In an interview with AFP in the capital Bangui on Tuesday, Mahamat Nour Mamadou — who said he was a market trader — described the ordeal and said he feared for his life.

“They tortured me from 8am to 5pm. They hit me with chains, iron batons, they cut me in the foot with a knife, and also on the arms and the shoulder. They broke a tooth with a brick,” Mamadou said.

– ‘Cut off my finger’ –

Mamadou said he was detained on January 11 by soldiers of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) after a crowd falsely accused him of belonging to the Seleka militia — a mainly Muslim rebel movement which rose up in 2012 in the north of the country.

“They took me to the town hall where the FACA and the Russians are based. The Russians questioned me, they asked me if I was a Seleka, if I had weapons,” he said.

In 2013, the Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, plunging the country into crisis before the group was forced from power.

“They tied my hands and covered my head with a jacket, they punched me. They tied me up during the night. Then they took me to their base,” said Mamadou.

“They took a big knife and cut off my finger. They slashed my other fingers too, then they strangled me with a chain,” he said, adding that there was one FACA interpreter and several Russians.

Mamadou was released on January 15 after internal security forces intervened, according to the UN.

It remained unclear if the Russians were part of the private military outfit Wagner, with the UN describing the suspected torturers as “non-UN uniformed individuals of Russian nationality.”

Russia’s influence in CAR has been growing since the UN-backed government there called for help to fight militias rampaging through the country.

Moscow has already supplied weapons, military officers, at least 170 military “trainers” and a security adviser to work with President Faustin-Archange Touadera.