Democratic Republic of Congo: International community must stop this carnage for profit

The report states that hundreds of thousands of Congolese civilians that have been tortured and killed during fighting over control of natural resources, while the international community has consistently failed to respond.

The report, entitled Democratic Republic of Congo – 'Our brothers who help kill us', states that the exploitation of the DRC's natural resources is the biggest single factor underpinning the continuing violence in the country.

Amnesty International said: 'For the last four and a half years Rwanda, Uganda and their Congolese allies have systematically plundered eastern DRC's natural wealth on a vast scale. This has led to hundreds of thousands of Congolese civilian deaths. Despite peace agreements, the killing continues, while the international community looks on.

'Human rights abuses on such an unprecedented scale have only been possible in the DRC because the perpetrators have been allowed to act with almost complete impunity. Only concerted and robust international action to end such impunity will stop further abuses.'

The northern and eastern regions of the DRC, which are under the control of Congolese armed groups sponsored by Rwanda and Uganda, are rich in precious resources, including gold, diamonds and timber. These resources have been systematically pillaged by the warring parties, with senior members of the Rwandese and Ugandan armies and their Congolese allies being the major beneficiaries.

Meanwhile the local Congolese population face abject poverty, insecurity, displacement, abduction and death. Thousands have died due to malnutrition and lack of access to humanitarian assistance after being forced to flee their homes.

Foreign forces have also deliberately stoked inter-ethnic conflicts and mass killings in order to promote their economic interests. This has been the case in Ituri for example, resulting in further mass killings and large scale destruction of habitations. Thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been raped. Children's rights as young as 12 have been forced into hard labour in the mines. Human rights defenders who have denounced these abuses have been beaten, detained, forced to flee or killed.

Although the international community knows what has been happening, it has consistently failed to respond in a timely and decisive manner. In June 2000 the United Nations Security Council mandated a Panel of Experts to investigate the exploitation of the DRC's natural resources by foreign actors. The Panel has since published three extensive reports, and submitted them to the UN Security Council, identifying the major economic players in the region. It has proposed measures to censure the states, individuals and companies involved.

Despite this, governments of the alleged perpetrators, as well as the Security Council, have done little to hold economic actors to account for their commercial activities in the DRC, or for the human rights abuses to which these activities have given rise.

The human rights situation in the DRC could be dramatically improved if the international community had a genuine political will and commitment to act.

Amnesty International said: 'By ending impunity and by holding to account those who seek to profit from humanitarian and human rights disasters, such as the death of some 3 million people in the DRC since 1998, the international community could yet deliver justice to the Congolese people.'

Recommendations

The mandate and deployment of the UN ceasefire monitoring body MONUC must be strengthened and MONUC's mandate 'to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence' fully implemented. The international community, in particular through the UN Security Council, must put pressure on the key protagonists in the conflict, including the governments of Rwanda and Uganda and the leaders of armed political groups, to ensure that they condemn abuses by their own forces and bring suspected perpetrators to justice.

The international community should support and provide resources for judicial mechanisms, such as an international commission of inquiry, aimed at enforcing accountability for human rights abuses.

Governments should ensure that businesses active in the DRC do not cause or condone human rights abuses, and that revenues generated from the DRC's natural resources help to realise the population's social and economic rights.

Governments should ensure that the DRC and regional diamond transit countries adhere to the international diamond certification system agreed through the Kimberley Process. Governments should also allow international scrutiny of trade in natural resources, to ensure that this trade does not lead to human rights abuses.

The report is available online at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/eng-cod/reports

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