D R Congo: Government must act to end atrocities and give victims justice

There cannot be real peace in DRC until these atrocities stop and there is justice for the victims and their families, said the human rights group, as it called on the government to investigate all human rights abuses committed during the conflict

Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International UK, said:

'While the different factions in Kinshasa wrangle for power and privilege, people still live in fear of death, plunder and carnage in the Kivus, Ituri and other parts of the country.

'Mutilations and massacres continue. Children's rights are still being used as soldiers, and rape of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls is a standard tactic of warfare. The credibility of the transitional government will suffer if these atrocities are allowed to continue with impunity.'

Amnesty International has had an 'emergency mission' in DRC over the last two weeks to draw attention to and call for an end to the atrocities in the east. In talks with members of the government, UN representatives and members of the diplomatic community, Amnesty International stressed that the real test of the political process in the DRC will be the government's willingness to reign in the armed elements and bring to justice those guilty of human rights violations.

Irene Khan continued:

'Neither national unity nor democracy can be built on the back of abuse and impunity. The right of victims and their families to truth and justice is an essential element of the process of reconciliation and peace in the DRC. Those who are suspected of having perpetrated war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide must be investigated, regardless of the position or power they enjoy.

'We welcome the indications by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that they will investigate crimes committed in Ituri. This must be accompanied by further action at the national and international level to investigate crimes beyond the scope of the ICC.'

During a visit to Bunia last week, Amnesty International noted that the UN force MONUC, which now has a strengthened mandate and more troops, has increased security in the area. However, more needs to be done to deploy troops in other parts of Ituri and in the Kivus, to support demobilisation and disarmament and reform of the army and the police.

Irene Khan continued:

'The international community must continue to give MONUC the political and financial support it needs and must stay the course until the tasks are done. More attention must be given to assisting the victims of sexual violence and the demobilisation and rehabilitation of child soldiers.

'The UN Security Council must insist on the most scrupulous respect of the arms embargo in eastern DRC. It must put teeth in its resolution by setting up a mechanism to enforce the embargo, and provide MONUC with the resources to support this mechanism.'

Amnesty International calls on UN member states not to engage in arms transfers and supplies of military and police equipment or training to the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda unless these transfers are subject to the most stringent certification and scrutiny to ensure that the equipment will not be used to perpetrate human rights abuses.

Referring to the imminent publication of the report of the UN Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources from DRC, Ms Khan concluded:

'We must not forget that the desire to control and exploit the natural resources of DRC has been a major driving force behind massive human rights abuses. So far, the findings of the UN Panel, implicating Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe as well as many companies worldwide, have not led to any further investigations. The UN Security Council must take concrete action to implement the recommendations of the Panel reports. It is of the utmost importance that the UN Security Council establishes a mechanism to monitor actively the resource exploitation to ensure that it is not tainted by human rights abuses.'

Background

Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, led an 'emergency mission' to Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo from 15 - 24 October 2003 to call on the leaders of these countries to stop supporting armed groups in eastern DRC.

These armed groups have been responsible for massive summary killings of civilians, torture, rape, 'disappearances', forced displacement and the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war.

The mission also raised Amnesty International's human rights concerns specific to Uganda and Rwanda with their leaders.

In addition to Kigali, Kampala and Kinshasa, Amnesty International's delegation visited Goma and Bunia in eastern DRC where it met with human rights defenders, civil society organisations, survivors of human rights abuses and the UN.

The delegation gathered information indicating that a large number of civilians, including Children's rights, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and the elderly, continue to be deliberately and systematically subjected to horrendous human rights abuses in eastern DRC.

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