GENEVA (15 January 2014) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged Heads of State attending a major summit in Africa’s Great Lakes Region to ensure that people suspected of committing international crimes and serious human rights violations do not continue to escape justice by crossing borders.
The high-level meeting on the Great Lakes Region currently taking place in Luanda “represents an unprecedented opportunity for member States to advance the fight against impunity in this violence-stricken region,” Pillay said.
The goals of the fifth Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) – the promotion of peace, security, stability and development – “will only be achieved if those responsible for violence and illegal economic exploitation are held to account,” she added.
“To take a recent example, Rwanda and Uganda are currently hosting senior military officers of the M23 rebel group, who are alleged to be among the worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including mass killings, rape and recruitment and use of children. If they continue to elude justice in neighbouring States, they remain a security threat, hampering efforts for sustainable peace and development in the region,” the High Commissioner said.
Despite formal commitments taken by the signatories of the February 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement to neither harbor nor protect any person accused of international crimes or who falls under the United Nations sanctions regime, many former M23 elements remain at large in Rwanda and Uganda, and people suspected of active participation in the 1994 Rwanda genocide are still sheltering from justice in the DRC two decades later. Other people suspected of very serious crimes are also believed to have escaped justice by crossing borders.
“I urge States to stop turning a blind eye to the presence of people on their territory who are suspected of committing very serious crimes, and take the opportunity of the summit to address the question of judicial cooperation and ensure accountability for international crimes and serious human rights violations committed throughout the region,” Pillay said.
Senior representatives of the High Commissioner have been making positive progress in recent months with Congolese authorities on impunity-related issues, including follow-up of the United Nations 2010 ‘Mapping Report’ on the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003.
“I am encouraged by recent efforts of the Congolese authorities to hold accountable high-ranking perpetrators of serious human rights violations including sexual violence. This trend must continue and include cross-border cooperation. The fight against impunity requires an active and real commitment by all States in the sub-region,” said Pillay.
The High Commissioner also noted that the Special Rapporteur on transitional justice* has requested invitations for country visits to a number of Members States of the ICGLR, including the DRC and Rwanda. Extending an invitation to the Special Rapporteur would be one step towards living up to the commitment to fight impunity, she said.
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* Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, see website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/TruthJusticeReparation/Pages/Index.aspx
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