Amnesty International calls on DRC to halt clashes

The Congolese government must take urgent steps to stop the violence in the east of the country and hold to account all who have committed human rights abuses, the London-based watchdog said on Wednesday as the DRC prepared to host a major gathering of Francophone leaders.

"Human rights abuses continue unabated and with total impunity," said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's Africa Director.

An Amnesty International delegation has recently returned from eastern DRC, where delegates documented cases of rape, summary killings, forced recruitment of civilians including children, looting and illegal taxation by different armed groups.

The Francophonie Summit – a biennial gathering of French speaking nations – will be hosted October 12 to 14 in Kinshasa, as violence in the east is escalating, resulting in widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

"We are urging member states of International Organisation of Francophonie to ensure that the numerous violations of the values and principles stated in the Francophone Charter and the Bamako Declaration, are condemned in the strongest possible terms," the statement said.


"The organisation should use all existing mechanisms to ensure that the Congolese authorities fulfil their obligations as a member state."

French President François Hollande will attend the summit, along with other heads of state of francophone countries from around the world.

"The leaders of Francophone nations are assembling in a country where there are daily reports of egregious abuses. They cannot ignore the context in which this major summit is taking place."

"They have a responsibility to engage with the Congolese authorities and demand action to stop the violence and hold perpetrators to account," said Audrey Gaughran.

Since conflict began between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group in April 2012, over 226 000 people have been forced to leave their homes in North Kivu province while about 60 000 have crossed the border to seek refuge in Uganda and Rwanda, the statement said.

"In July 2012, civilians were caught in the cross fire between government forces [FARDC] and the M23 who launched attacks against Rutshuru and Kiwanja, showing complete disregard for international standards with regard to protection of civilians".

Amnesty International says it is also concerned about the increase of ethnic-related violence. Between May and September 2012, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), the Nyatura and Raia Mutomboki armed groups in Masisi territory specifically targeted civilians who belonged or who were believed to belong to certain ethnic groups.

"Impunity for breaches of international law has become entrenched in the DRC."

Despite arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court for Bosco Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura, both indicted for war crimes, neither of them has been arrested. – AFP

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