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GENEVA (9 June 2017) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday called on the UN Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into the widespread human rights violations and abuses that have occurred in the Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental Provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the existence of at least 42 mass graves.
Since August 2016, some 1.27 million people from the Kasais have been internally displaced by the violence while some 30,000 refugees have fled to Angola. The UN Human Rights Office has documented 42 mass graves, although the actual number may be even higher. According to information gathered by UN Human Rights teams, soldiers from the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) reportedly dug many of the graves after clashing with presumed elements of the Kamuina Nsapu militia over the past several months. Reports of summary executions and other killings – including of children – as well as sexual violence have been documented since August 2016. The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC* continues to receive allegations of serious human rights violations, but security constraints have hindered further investigations.
High Commissioner Zeid in early May urged the Government of the DRC to take a series of steps to ensure that a credible, transparent investigation, respecting international standards and with the involvement of the UN Human Rights Office, be established by 8 June. While the Government has sought technical support and advice from the UN Human Rights Office and MONUSCO, its response to date falls short, in view of the gravity and widespread nature of the violations, and given the imperative need for justice for victims, according to the High Commissioner.
“It is the sovereign duty of the Government of the DRC to carry out judicial investigations into human rights violations committed on its territory and we will continue to support the Government by providing advice and support towards its fulfillment of these obligations,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “However the crimes committed in the Kasais appear to be of such gravity that they must be of concern to the international community as a whole, and in particular the Human Rights Council. The scale and nature of these human rights violations and abuses, and the consistently inadequate responses of the domestic authorities, oblige us to call for an international investigation to complement national efforts.”
“We have an obligation to the victims and a duty to send a message to the perpetrators of these crimes that we are watching and that the international community is throwing its weight behind ensuring that the endemic impunity in the DRC is brought to an end.”
The flare-up in the Kasais occurred in August 2016 when a customary chief was killed by the FARDC. The Kamuina Nsapu militia, named after the chief, sought to avenge his killing by targeting police and members of the army, state symbols and institutions, such as government buildings, police stations and churches, recruiting children to join its ranks. The FARDC have reportedly reacted to the attacks by launching a blistering counter-attack, including by firing indiscriminately with machine guns in towns where the militia were suspected to be as well as conducting door to door searches, shooting dead suspected militia members or sympathizers. While a number of national investigations have been launched into the alleged crimes committed by the Kamuina Nsapu, the Government has failed to conduct meaningful investigations into the conduct of the FARDC and the Police nationale congolaise.
* The UN Joint Human Rights Office, which was established in February 2008, is the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC.
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