/ 9 September 2009

UN rights chief sees possible war crimes in DRC

A top United Nations official on Tuesday decried possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where UN investigators cited both government and rebel fighters for abuses.

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised particular concern about transgressions by the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) militia, whose former leader, Laurent Nkunda, was arrested in January in Rwanda.

”The actions of the CNDP could well amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, and are part of a self-perpetuating pattern of brutality in eastern DRC, which continues to go largely unpunished,” Pillay, a South African former war-crimes judge, said in a statement alongside two UN reports on DRC.

Those reports, produced by the UN peacekeeping force in DRC and Pillay’s office in Geneva, document violations that occurred during a spike in fighting in North and South Kivu, in October and November last year.

They find that some Congolese forces ”engaged in large-scale pillages as well as arbitrary killings and sexual violence against the very people they were supposed to be protecting” as the CNDP militia approached eastern DRC towns.

The UN investigators documented 12 arbitrary killings and 70 rapes said to be committed by government soldiers in Goma and Kanyabayonga. They also found CNDP rebels carried out at least 67 civilian killings, with many victims ”arbitrarily executed, often inside their houses, after fighting had stopped”.

In her statement, Pillay said that the judicial response to the abuses had been ”wholly insufficient” and called for ”concrete and immediate action to hold perpetrators accountable, particularly since sexual violence continues to take place on a daily basis”. — Reuters