D R Congo: Metal container detentions, executions and torture - UN must act now

There is evidence that a unit of the Ugandan army is supporting the armed group. Amnesty International is calling on the UN Security Council to deploy a 'rapid reaction force' immediately.

Amnesty International said:

'More than 50,000 civilians have died in the fighting in DRC since 1999, and all the ingredients are in place now for serious ethnic conflict, or even genocide.

'The international community has been closing its eyes to the situation in DRC for too long. We cannot dither while the bodycount is rising and intervention is desperately needed. A rapid reaction force which can protect civilians and secure humanitarian assistance should be deployed as soon as possible.'

Amnesty International has received reports that following a failed coup attempt against the Armed Forces of the Congolese People (FAPC), four people have been executed and dozens of others, including both soldiers and civilians, have been arrested. They are being held in metal containers where it is hot and very difficult to breathe. It is reported that the Ugandan army assisted in the round-up of the detainees and is now also holding at least eight others across the border in the Ugandan town of Arua.

The detainees include Leopold Leti, a high-ranking member the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP), who has been repeatedly stabbed in the back and the nape of the neck since his arrest. Like all the other detainees, he has had no access to medical treatment or to food.

Other detainees include a driver for a local college, reportedly arrested on the grounds that the coup leaders had seized his car, Jean-Filbert Tshombe, another prominent member of the UPC, and Donatien Kanyi-Ngiya, a local official.

Amnesty International is calling for the immediate release of all the detainees, and on the Ugandan authorities to intervene immediately to prevent further torture and executions in the area. All members of the FAPC and the Ugandan army implicated in human rights abuses should be suspended immediately and investigations begun.

As world leaders prepare to gather for the G8 summit next week, Amnesty International has repeated its call on the UN Security Council to deploy immediately a rapid reaction force. This should have a robust mandate to protect civilians and maintain law and in and around the province of Ituri, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance can reach the local population.

Background

Ituri province has been the scene of appalling human rights abuses, often directed against the civilian population, since the outbreak of war in the DRC in 1998. It is estimated that some 50,000 people have been killed and over half a million displaced from their homes since 1999.

Uganda has played a pivotal role in the region, providing arms and logistical support to all of the armed groups currently operating in Ituri province, as well as maintaining UPDF forces in the region until their official withdrawal on 6 May 2003.

The FAPC, which is directly supported by the Ugandan army, is a relatively new splinter group of the UPC, an armed group led by Thomas Lubanga which is in control of Ituri's capital town, Bunia. The underlying motive for the attempted coup against the FAPC leadership was reportedly a dispute over the sharing of profits derived from exploiting the area's natural resources, including gold.

The desire to control and profit from eastern DRC's natural resources has become the biggest single factor driving the continuing fighting in the region and has led directly to horrendous human rights abuses against the civilian population.

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