U.N. rights chief sees possible war crimes in Congo

Source: Reuters

* Congolese soldiers cited for large-scale pillage, rapes * CNDP militia cited for arbitrary and revenge killings * Pillay sees possible war crimes, crimes against humanity (Adds quotes from U.N. in Kinshasa, background) By Laura MacInnis GENEVA, Sept 9 (Reuters) – A top United Nations official on Tuesday decried possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where U.N. investigators cited both government and rebel fighters for abuses. Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised particular concern about transgressions by the National Congress for the Defense 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 U.N. reports on Congo. Those reports, produced by the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo and Pillay’s office in Geneva, document violations that occurred during a spike in fighting in North Kivu, in October and November last year. They found 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 Congo towns. The U.N. investigators documented 12 arbitrary killings and 70 rapes said to have been committed by government soldiers in Goma and Kanyabayonga. They also found CNDP rebels carried out at least 67 civilian killings, with many victims “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”. “THE TERMINATOR” The report stated that the majority of the CNDP’s victims were murdered in targeted reprisal killings in Kiwanja in North Kivu on November 4 and 5 following a battle with local Mai Mai militia over control of the strategic town. U.N. human rights researchers established that then-rebel General Jean Bosco Ntaganda was in charge of the CNDP’s troops in Kiwanja at the time of the killings. Ntaganda, who is being sought by the International Criminal Court on separate war crimes charges, was integrated into Congo’s army in January along with other members of the Tutsi-dominated CNDP. MONUC, the U.N. mission in Congo, is backing the anti-rebel operations, in which Ntaganda, known as “the Terminator,” was named deputy coordinator, according to army documents and military officials. However, the U.N. has long denied that it has any direct contact with the former rebel commander and claims it has received assurances from the Congolese government that Ntaganda is not playing a significant role in the operations. “We know he is there. We are aware of it. He was integrated. He was given a role. And according to our partners, he does not play a role in the operations that MONUC is supporting,” said Kevin Kennedy, MONUC’s head of communications. “But it isn’t our job to investigate the role of Bosco Ntaganda in the (army),” he told journalists in Kinshasa. Around 150 Indian peacekeepers from Congo’s U.N. mission, known as MONUC, were based within three km (two miles) of the massacre and have been faulted by rights campaigners for not doing enough to stop the killings. But the report said the U.N. troops were unaware of the “nature or magnitude of the situation” and would have lacked the capacity to intervene and protect the victims. (Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Kinshasa; Editing by Daniel Magnowski in Dakar)
spotted by RS

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