A UN investigation into the human rights situation in southern Masisi territory in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has revealed that at least 264 civilians, including 83 children, were arbitrarily executed by armed groups in more than 75 attacks on villages between April and September this year.
The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DR Congo (UNJHRO) had received reports of human rights violations during attacks of ethnic character, part of a conflict with economic and political root causes, targeting mainly civilians in North and South Kivu since the beginning of the year. The attacks intensified from April 2012 in southern Masisi.
The UNJHRO led six investigations into these allegations and interviewed more than 160 witnesses as well as local authorities, civil society members, the Congolese national police (PNC) and heath care workers. The investigators uncovered mass killings, mass forced displacement and large scale looting and destruction of private property. The UNJHRO also confirmed four cases of sexual violence involving the rape of 12 women.
“The systematic human rights violations committed by these armed groups, including the slaughter of so many children, are the most serious we have seen in recent times in the DRC,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said. “The Congolese authorities must take immediate measures to protect civilian populations and to combat the persistent impunity which only serves to embolden the killers.”
Eastern provinces of the DRC have experienced cycles of ethnically motivated violence for the past 15 years. The weakness of State institutions, the lack of capacity of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), the persistence of impunity, as well as the standstill on the resolution of long-term conflicts has prevented the restoration of security in the region, the report highlights.
“The UN Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo has observed a significant increase in human rights violations across the provinces of North and South Kivu in 2012 due in large part to the activities of armed groups, including the [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] who remain amongst the perpetrators of the most serious human rights violations in the region, in addition to the M23, Nyatura and Raia Mutomboki,” said Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Roger Meece. “The risk of intensification of this ethnically charged conflict is real, and gives rise to serious concerns for peace and for the security of civilians in the region.”
The report makes a series of recommendations, including a call for Congolese security forces, with the support of the international community, to restore security in southern Masisi and ensure the protection of civilians. Congolese authorities are also urged to take into account the violations detailed in the report and the responsibility of the alleged perpetrators when considering Security Sector Reform (SSR) measures and verify the human rights records of any members of armed groups seeking integration into the national army.
30 November 2012
See also: Opinion Editorial by Navi Pillay entitled "End the impunity of Congo's war criminals"