/ 1 December 2008

UN rights council condemns abuses in DRC

The United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday condemned abuses against civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), especially sexual attacks, and called on government and rebel forces to allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

At an emergency session, the council also backed a stronger mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC ”to increase its ability to address the dire security and humanitarian situation in the region”.

The resolution, introduced by Egypt on behalf of African states, was adopted by consensus.

France, which on behalf of the European Union had requested the special session, withdrew its earlier text so the 47-nation body could speak in one voice on atrocities in the eastern province of North Kivu.

More than 250 000 people have been driven from their homes since fighting erupted between Congolese forces and Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda in August and an unknown number have died in widespread violence and looting.

The Human Rights Council resolution ”condemns the acts of violence, human rights violations and abuses committed in Kivu, in particular sexual violence and the recruitment by the militia of child soldiers, and stresses the importance of bringing all perpetrators to justice.”

It said that Monuc — the UN peacekeeping force with 17 000 troops in eastern DRC — needed more support to better protect bystanders to the conflict and restore stability.

The resolution ”calls upon all states to immediately provide assistance to Monuc, to increase its ability to address the dire security and humanitarian situation in the region”.

The council also expressed ”serious concern” about the conditions in which uprooted people are living in the midst of the conflict, and said warring parties needed to allow the safe passage of aid workers and supplies.

It called on all sides of the conflict ”to allow access and free movement of people and goods as well as to enable humanitarian agencies to provide badly needed food, water, medication and shelter”.

The Geneva-based Council was created in 2006 to replace the UN Human Rights Commission. It has previously held special sessions on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, on Burma, on Sudan’s Darfur region, and on the global food crisis.

Its resolutions do not include legal or other sanctions, but are seen to carry diplomatic weight.

Not everyone was satisfied with the Council’s DC text. The Geneva-based UN Watch group said it was hoping to see a UN rights expert assigned to the region, and said abuses ”making eastern CDRC a living hell” needed to be properly investigated.

”Today’s resolution is a major disappointment,” it said. — Reuters