IN MEETING ON DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO,
SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS CALL FOR END TO
IMPUNITY FOR PERPETRATORS OF VIOLENCE
NEW YORK, 7 July (UN Headquarters) -- As there could be no real peace without an end to impunity, perpetrators of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be brought to justice, the Security Council was told this morning during a briefing on the situation in that country.
The Council’s discussion focused on two reports by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on atrocities committed in the Ituri region, specifically in Mambasa between October and December 2002 and in Drodro in April 2003. Introducing the reports, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Gangapersaud Ramcharan said the fact that his Office was briefing the Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the third time in a year indicated the serious and continuous nature of the human rights violations there.
The reports concluded that all parties in the eastern part of the country were using human rights violations to create an atmosphere of terror and oppression in order to control the population and natural resources, he said. Also, the continuing insecurity, terror, and lack of cooperation from the parties had prevented thorough investigations into mass killings and human rights violations.
Justice could only be served, he stated, by endowing national and international mechanisms with opportunities for greater investigation. The failure to take concrete actions to end violence in the region would only encourage the perception that the Council was passive and had double standards. His Office was engaged in discussions to reconstruct the Congolese justice system and strengthen the rule of law, including supporting the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that, for some time now, in successive updates, the Secretariat had made Council members aware of the ongoing violence in the Ituri region, where issues of economic necessity and sustenance, land and exploitation of natural resources had been fuelled by the ambitions of local and external players to dominate the region. The total breakdown of law and order under which Ituri currently existed meant that no one was held accountable for their actions.
It was hoped that with the installation of the transitional Government in Kinshasa, those who were guilty would be brought to justice, he said. However, that could only happen if there was a degree of centralized control in the administration of justice, and in the rule of law sector. He urged the international community to support the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Observatory on Human Rights, which were to be established under the All-Inclusive Agreement signed on 17 December 2002.
In the discussion that followed, Council members expressed outrage at the events in Ituri. They emphasized the importance of gathering information and establishing what had happened, as well as the need to continue to carry out further investigations. Speakers also agreed with the need to support the establishment of national human rights mechanisms in the country. Stressing that the tragedies of past years must be addressed, they maintained that the goal of a Congo free from violence could only be reached through meaningful transitional justice.
The authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were anxious to restore law and order and respect for human rights, its representative said. Despite the measures taken, the situation was still extremely grave in the north-east, which was not under governmental control. While much remained to be done to restore peace and security, the establishment of transitional structures meant there was no more pretext for continuing war. All parties wishing to participate in the country’s future must demonstrate their commitment to human rights and the well-being of the Congolese people.
All members of the Council participated in today’s meeting, which began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 12:55 p.m.
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
JEAN-MARIE GUEHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said the Council was meeting today to discuss two reports on the situation in the region of Ituri, specifically in the areas of Mambasa and Drodro. He wanted to draw the Council’s attention to the broader trends that led to the violations in Ituri, and provide an update on recent developments since the last briefing on 26 June.
He said the Mambasa report covered events that took place between October and December 2002 and related to atrocities committed by the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC), Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-National (RCD-N) and Union des patriots congolais (UPC), while the report on events in and around Drodro related to April 2003, when atrocities were committed by Lendu combatants, as well as possibly others. For some time now, in successive updates, the Secretariat had made members aware of the ongoing violence in the Ituri region, where issues of economic necessity and sustenance, land and exploitation of natural resources had been fuelled by the ambitions of local and external players to dominate the region.
The political context for the events described included not only the issues described above, but also the relative isolation of Ituri from the national context, where the perpetrators that were committing the crimes could be brought to justice. He added that the total breakdown of law and order, under which Ituri currently existed, meant that no one, including those who were “tried” by MLC authorities in Gbadolite, was in fact held accountable for their actions. The Council had often before condemned such impunity.
It was hoped that, with the installation of the transitional Government in Kinshasa, those who were guilty would be brought to justice, he continued. However, that could only happen if there was a degree of centralized control in the administration of justice, and in the rule of law sector. The Democratic Republic of the Congo desperately needed an institutional framework whereby those guilty of crimes were held accountable. Under the All-Inclusive Agreement signed on 17 December 2002, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a National Observatory on Human Rights were to be established. It would be crucial for the international community to support the work of those organs.
The delay in agreement on the distribution of the military command posts, which had postponed the installation of the transitional Government, was finally resolved on 29 June, with the mediation of Special Envoy Niasse, General Baril, and the Government of South Africa. He said that on 30 June in Mbandaka, President Kabila had issued a decree announcing the composition of the transitional Government, which would consist of 36 ministers and 25 deputy ministers representing the various components of the inter-Congolese dialogue.
The next steps were the swearing-in of the four vice-presidents and the first meeting of the Council of Ministers, at which point the new Government would formally commence its work, he said. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) was closely consulting the parties to ensure that security concerns of the political leaders, especially the MLC and the RCD (G) were addressed. It was critical that all leaders arrive in Kinshasa to ensure a successful commencement.
Turning to the situation in Ituri, he said the overall security situation in Bunia was stable, and the Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF), together with the MONUC contingent, continued to patrol the town, which was declared a “weapons free zone” as of 25 June. While the UPC had redeployed its troops to the exterior of the town, the presence of soldiers in civilian garb could not be ruled out.
In the meantime, some 6,000 internally displaced persons, many of whom were apparently original residents of the town, had returned from camps and outlying areas, he continued. One discouraging factor remained the illegal occupation by UPC elements of private homes of those wishing to return. The IEMF and MONUC were also facilitating the return to town of Lendu inhabitants, including their political representatives.
The rationale behind an enhanced security presence in Bunia had been to create sufficient political space for the Ituri Interim Administration to establish itself on a firmer footing, he went on. The Administration was now taking a more proactive stance in implementing its mandate and had appointed a mayor for Bunia and had started to deploy its local civilian police -– albeit in small numbers -– to key areas in the town, in coordination with MONUC. However, it must be recognized that establishing full authority and competencies of the Interim Administration would be a long-term process.
In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and humanitarian agencies, MONUC and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had drawn up an Ituri strategy to guide and coordinate the activities of United Nations agencies and its partners, focusing first on humanitarian assistance to Bunia. That plan had been finalized and would assist all stakeholders in coordinating assistance to the area through the Ituri Interim Administration, he said. The plan would be conveyed to Council members and other potential donors with a request for assistance this week. As part of its efforts, MONUC was advocating and supporting closer cooperation between the Ituri Interim Administration and the transitional Government.
The deployment of a strong multinational force in Bunia had begun to change the balance between the warring parties and legitimate political actors in the area, he said. The main beneficiaries were the thousands of civilians who might finally be able to return to their homes and resume their lives in conditions of security. It was vital that the MONUC bridgade-size force replacing the IEMF in Bunia, and later deployed in Ituri as well, be robustly configured and positioned so that it could build on the current stabilizing presence of the IEMF. At the same time, he was fully cognizant that Bunia, and Ituri, would require the sustained attention of the international community.
However, he added, as the Secretariat had repeatedly indicated to the Council, continued international pressure on the parties was needed to convince them that the transitional process was the only option available to them. Within that context, the need for accountability of those who had been responsible for the crimes under discussion today must also be considered.
There could not be any real peace without an end to impunity, he stated. He invited the Council to consider additional steps to help the capacity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities to bring to justice those who were accountable, through the active support of the international community.
BERTRAND GANGAPERSAUD RAMCHARAN, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights and Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the defence of human rights, which was linked to peacemaking, peace-building, peace observation, and humanitarian concerns, was a key component of the work of the United Nations and the Security Council. In that regard, because the United Nations had the world’s trust, it was right in seeking to bring attention to such themes as the protection of civilians in armed conflict, HIV/AIDS, and other new security challenges.
Turning to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he introduced his Office’s report on the matter, stating that it highlighted continuing human rights violations in the region. He focused on the events of 3 April 2003, in which Lendu militias around Drodro had engaged in assaults, killings, torture, looting and the destruction of property. Telling the Council that a team of investigators had discovered 20 mass graves in the area, he maintained that, since the team had not been able to visit eight other locales, it was likely that more such graves existed.
He said his Office, in collaboration with MONUC, had continued to monitor the situation in Ituri. For example, it had reported more violence between Lendu and Hema militias on 31 May and 1 June 2003. That unrest had led to at least 350 casualties, consisting mainly of civilians and including 37 people whose throats had been cut and who had been hacked with machetes at the town hospital. In addition to summary executions, confrontations and resulting violence had led to arbitrary arrests, abductions, rapes, wanton destruction, and 74,000 displaced persons. In response, his Office was engaged in discussions to reconstruct the Congolese justice system and strengthen the rule of law. It also supported the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He told the Council that the fact that his Office was briefing the Council on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the third time in a year indicated the serious and continuous nature of the human rights violations in the country. He then reiterated three conclusions from his Office’s reports. First, all parties in the eastern part of the country were using human rights violations as a means of creating an atmosphere of terror and oppression in order to control the population and natural resources.
Second, the continuing insecurity, terror, and lack of cooperation from the parties had prevented thorough investigations into mass killings and human rights violations in the region. In that regard, he said justice could only be served by endowing national and international mechanisms with opportunities for greater investigation.
Third, failure to take concrete actions to end violence in the region would only encourage the perception that the Council was passive and had double standards. In that context, he emphasized that the perpetrators of violence must know that the Council would bring them to justice.
ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said the agreement between the warring parties and the establishment of the transitional Government had led to the hope of a settlement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the establishment of governmental control throughout the territory, as well as rehabilitation of the country, which had suffered so greatly. The information provided on the human rights situation was extremely disturbing. The reports could not be read without outrage. The documents were comparable to accounts of the most tragic events of the Second World War. They were a terrible feature of intra-African conflicts.
In early June, the Security Council mission had visited Central Africa, he said. In Bunia, it had met with representatives of international humanitarian organizations, who stated that they were only able to operate within a radius of 200 metres. The mission had raised the issue of child combatants with those with whom they had met, all of whom said they had nothing to do with that issue. No one seemed willing to investigate or eradicate that phenomenon. Concrete and coordinated action was needed on the ground. A major role could be played by regional organizations, and it was extremely important that Africans themselves become aware of the problem and tried to eliminate it.
He asked what could be done by African organizations to ensure the implementation of international instruments on preventing mass human rights violations during the current conflicts in Africa. Also, how could the international community help them do that?
IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) said information previously provided by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello had shocked the Council. Systematic rape, sexual slavery, and other gross human rights violations that had taken place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1998 were highly disturbing, and he noted that the conflict had caused the largest amount of deaths since the Second World War. Because civilians were the primary victims, he said the perpetrators were losing their humanity.
Welcoming the recent formation of a national government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said it opened up new prospects of reconciliation and peace. Nevertheless, all parties in the country had to work together to restore trust and jumpstart the national economy, and that required commitment from the international community. He added that the Council should assist with bringing the perpetrators of the conflict to justice and welcomed the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to allow the Congolese people to make peace with their violent past.
He stressed that a weapon-free zone and disarmament, in general, should be considered for Bunia, and he called for gender issues to be taken into account. Turning to the plight of child soldiers, he expressed the hope that United Nations agencies would address their problems and help them to demobilize and reintegrate into civilian life. He also appealed to the Democratic Republic’s neighbours to support peace in the region and convince the rebel movements, over whom they clearly had influence, to desist.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) noted that the Security Council mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo had met with various factions and leaders, and had conveyed the message to them that massacres in Ituri would not go unpunished. The mission had also stated that massacres, atrocities and other violations, as well as the displacement of civilians, were crimes that the international community, and the Council in particular, could not tolerate.
He welcomed the establishment of the transitional Government, which included the various factions in the Democratic Republic under the All-Inclusive Agreement. He hoped that would be an important step forward to putting an end to all human rights violations. He also hoped that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the other human rights monitoring bodies would be able to begin their work and make it possible to put an end to the violations.
He asked Mr. Ramcharan to elaborate on the local and national mechanisms that might be used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring to justice those who had violated human rights and committed the massacres described in the reports, in light of the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the other human rights monitoring bodies.
JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola), declaring that the reports at hand were disturbing, expressed outrage and strongly condemned the perpetrators. Expressing solidarity with the suffering people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he stressed that those engaging in violence must not go unpunished. He then asked Mr. Ramcharan whether political pardons might be problematic in the country, since it was necessary to punish the perpetrators and promote justice there.
JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France) paid tribute to the important work being done by the human rights staff of MONUC. A few days ago, the Council had welcomed the settlement that had led to the transitional Government in Kinshasa, which represented an important step. On Bunia, he said that the emergency multinational Force had had a good impact there. Despite logistical problems, the Force had been quickly deployed. Those that had benefited most were the civilians themselves. He was interested in the Secretariat’s efforts to ensure that the Force would be replaced by a robust brigade by 15 August.
Turning to human rights matters, he said that Mr. Ramcharan’s statement was “quite devastating”. Establishing the actual human rights situation was the first step. Also, assistance must be provided to the victims. Investigations were crucial to ensure that there was no impunity. It was now essential that the transitional Government establish some appropriate mechanisms in the judiciary to ensure the prosecution of serious human rights violations. It was also essential that those involved not be given asylum or refuge anywhere. In addition, it was necessary to support the establishment of national human rights mechanisms in the country.
The reports had mentioned the possibility of sending an international investigation team to Ituri and the eastern region of the country. What would be the right time for that? he asked. Also, on the possibility of the various human rights rapporteurs visiting the country and having a joint investigation, he wondered how such a mission could be combined with the international investigation team. Would it be possible that military observers could report on any human rights violations? Should human rights observers not enjoy some protection?
GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) said the dialogue between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Security Council was a positive development that should be maintained and fostered. Such interaction reminded the Council that military action alone was not a lasting solution to global conflicts. Rather, what was needed were comprehensive approaches to security, ones that took human rights into account.
Regretting that the investigation of the events in Drodro had to be cut short because of security concerns, he supported the report’s recommendations to engage in further investigations. In addition, he drew attention to the fact that human rights violations were not confined to the Ituri region, but were affecting other parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well. He cited the formation of a Transitional Government as a step in the right direction and urged the new body to prioritize the rule of law and human rights, and cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, MONUC, and other United Nations actors.
Turning to neighbouring countries, especially Rwanda and Uganda, he called on them to stop interfering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s internal affairs and become a part of the solution rather than the problem. In that regard, he hoped that neighbours would follow the report’s suggestions to not grant refuge to perpetrators. He also called for the Transitional Government to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and use international help to establish a judicial mechanism to punish the perpetrators.
HERALDO MUÑOZ (Chile) said that the Council had grown “accustomed” to hearing reports of extreme human rights violations in the north-eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But the reports had reached a new level of cruelty. He condemned the cruelty inflicted on the population, particularly on women and children. The most serious part of the report was that the crimes had been planned and organized by leaders of the various groups. The events in Mambasa and Drodro had shown the complex gravity of the violence in the region. Special attention must be paid to the fact that all groups were recruiting minors in the conflict. Also, particular attention should be paid to providing psychological support to the victims, especially women and children.
He condemned the human rights violations and reiterated the need to put an end to the impunity, which currently existed. It was essential to make MONUC more robust and enable it to protect the civilian population. Also, the Secretary-General should establish a standing team within MONUC to verify human rights violations. He asked both Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Ramcharan about the real possibilities and real mechanisms to ensure that the perpetrators could be brought to justice.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) was outraged at the events in the Ituri region and said there should be no impunity for the perpetrators. He also said he would continue to work to translate the Council’s words into concrete actions. He welcomed the formation of the transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged all parties to fully honour the agreements they had made.
He then asked Mr. Guéhenno what the prospects were for convincing the factions that had agreed to participate in the transitional Government to begin work to form a unified national army. He also wished to know what type of mechanism would be used to prevent combatants and commanders who had been involved in atrocities from joining the national army. Turning to Mr. Ramcharan, he asked how the High Commissioner for Human Rights intended to pursue justice in the region.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said the situation described today included some positive developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including the fact that the transitional Government had finally been established. He hoped that the history of the Congolese people would have a new start and they would finally be on a stable and prosperous path. Mr. Ramcharan’s report was astonishing, and some of his recommendations deserved further study.
He said he had participated in the Council mission to the country and had witnessed the instability and violence that had occurred there. He also had seen the child soldiers, some of whom were not as tall as the arms they carried. In Bunia, the mission had met with members of the Interim Administration and with representatives of the non-governmental organizations working there. It was clear that the Congolese people had high expectations of MONUC, which had played a positive role.
Since MONUC had played such an important role, he asked Mr. Guéhenno what it could do to further protect the human rights of the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
BOUBACAR DIALLO (Guinea) said perpetrators of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be punished and voiced support for the country’s transitional national Government. As the country had greatly suffered from a senseless war, he insisted that practical measures must be taken to end impunity and lent his support to the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and National Observatory for Human Rights.
He added that neighbouring countries needed to be brought into the process. Declaring that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a lot of potential, he wished to know what practical measures were being taken by the Office United Nations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that there was no impunity for human rights violators.
JULIAN KING (United Kingdom) shared the revulsion of others over the events described. Disregard for the ordinary people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been a common feature of all the warring parties and needed to stop. It was crucial to see an end to the culture of impunity. Respect for human rights carried obligations, especially on the part of those in authority. It was necessary to see a culture of dignity for all, which must start at the top. The power-sharing arrangements of the transitional Government must work in favour of all the people of the country. The transition must lead to free and fair elections, and begin a culture of freedom. Above all, all Congolese parties must listen to the people that they represented.
He asked Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Ramcharan how the monitoring of human rights could be strengthened, perhaps involving civil society. How could civil society involvement in the transitional process be promoted? Was there more to be done to ensure that women played a full part in all areas of the transition?
RAYKO RAYTCHEV (Bulgaria) said the human rights situation in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was deeply shocking and of grave concern. In that regard, he joined fellow delegates in strongly condemning the human rights violations in Ituri and other parts of the country. Stating that impunity was strengthening a cycle of human rights abuses and revenge, he recognized that the country could not attain peace if such impunity were allowed to persist.
Because it was critical for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, he proposed that the transitional authorities consider setting up a judicial mechanism to address the issue. He also voiced support for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and new national institutions dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights. Before concluding, he asked Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Ramcharan what concrete steps could be taken by their offices and the international community to help address the question of impunity.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said that some had estimated the number of deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at 3 million. Some of the worst acts imaginable, including cannibalism, had been committed. The international community had been too slow and too timid in responding to those crimes. A year ago, the Council was briefed by then High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson on the atrocities committed in Kisangani. Council members had been shocked and distressed by what had been heard, and had condemned the perpetrators. Also, they had reiterated that there could be no climate of impunity and that those responsible must be held accountable. Given that, it was disheartening that the Council had to meet again and again on human rights violations in the country.
He recalled that the Council had also been addressed by High Commissioner Sergio Vieira de Mello in February on violations in the country. At that time, his delegation had listened with revulsion to the reports of atrocities and human rights violations. The United States had said then that it was necessary to keep human rights at the centre of efforts to foster lasting peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Once again, the Council was hearing detailed reports of horrors committed there, he said. The United States was disappointed with the manner with which the MLC had dealt with those accused of committing atrocities in Mambasa. He was concerned about the light sentences handed down and the failure to charge anyone with crimes against humanity and war crimes. Such action perpetuated a culture of impunity. He welcomed the establishment of the transitional Government and the compromise on military integration. The transitional Government must take responsibility for ending the pervasive culture of impunity.
The tragedies of past years must be addressed, he stressed. It was important to assist the new Government by helping it to strengthen its all-inclusive nature. Gross violations could not be “brushed under the carpet”. He urged MONUC to assist non-governmental organizations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in gathering evidence of human rights violations. The goal of a Congo free from violence could only be reached through meaningful transitional justice. He called on the Congolese to take meaningful steps, including by allowing unimpeded access to areas where crimes had been committed.
CARLOS PUJALTE (Mexico) said that, out of the information given today, what had struck him was the premeditation and planning behind the human rights abuses. Stating that the violence would continue so long as no one was being punished for their crimes, he emphasized that true justice required independent courts imposing sentences that were directly proportional to the severity of the crimes. He also stressed that the leaders and commanders and not just the actual perpetrators had to be brought to trial.
Turning to Mr. Guéhenno and Mr. Ramcharan, he asked to what extent was the presence of troops inhibiting the results of investigations and testimonies. In other words, was it possible that the events were even more severe than previously thought? He also wished to know what types of strategies for action were in place to address the report’s considerations. Urging the transitional Government to put forth its own strategies and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he noted that it was important for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help itself wherever possible.
Council President INOCENCIO F. ARIAS (Spain), speaking in his national capacity, asked how the national institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Observatory for Human Rights, could cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and MONUC. Also, what were the prospects for financing for those two institutions?
NDUKU BOOTO (Democratic Republic of the Congo) paid tribute to the High Commissioner for his commitment to human rights in her country. The war of aggression had brought with it flagrant violations of human rights and 3 million dead, and had absorbed 80 per cent of the country’s resources. Nothing could justify the barbarism committed against the Congolese people.
The authorities in the country were anxious to restore law and order and respect for human rights, she said, and they were sparing no efforts despite current difficulties. While steps had been taken to protect children, rebel movements continued to recruit them. The Government had signed a decree prohibiting the recruitment of children. It had also established a programme for the demobilization of child soldiers, with the assistance of agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Twenty thousand street children now had access to education and health care.
Despite the measures taken, the situation was still extremely bad in the north-eastern part of the country, which was not under governmental control, she continued. She trusted that the multinational Force would establish some security soon, as people had been traumatized by the crimes committed. The international community must not tolerate such crimes, and there must be no more impunity.
The past week had been a decisive one in establishing the transitional Government structures, she said. The last obstacle had been removed with the compromise on military integration. While much more remained to be done to establish peace and security, the establishment of transitional structures meant there was no more pretext for continuing the war. It was imperative that all parties wishing to participate in the future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate their commitment to human rights and the well-being of the Congolese people.
Responding to questions from the delegates, Mr. GUÉHENNO said disarmament was crucial to ending the region’s conflicts, and he confirmed that MONUC would play an enhanced role in that respect. However, he stressed that even a strengthened MONUC would not be able to have as great an effect in a large country like the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the multinational Force had in Bunia today. Disarmament would, therefore, have to go hand in hand with sustained pressure on those parties who were arming the militias. Additionally, the Council would have to exert pressure on all players, so that they were forced to acknowledge that there was no alternative to peace.
Responding to questions about human rights and MONUC, he said information was shared between military observers and the multidisciplinary human rights teams. It was difficult to take a general position on protecting the investigators because each situation was specific. The level of security varied considerably not only from area to area, but from week to week. In that regard, MONUC had to continuously monitor the situation. He said, if necessary, he was not averse to making military protection available to investigating teams. However, that could not be made a general practice since resources were scarce.
Addressing the screening of officers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s future national army, he said MONUC would have to consider how to support that process. Additionally, the Congolese would have to focus on that matter themselves so that crimes were not forgotten or easily forgiven. Turning to human rights, he said the new transitional Government’s fledgling institutions, namely, the National Observatory for Human Rights and Truth and Reconciliation Commission, would be crucial for peace and would, therefore, need active support from the international community.
He told the Council that, as MONUC understood it, its role in the area of human rights was to mobilize international support and liaise with national institutions. In that context, he lauded the many courageous Congolese non-governmental organizations working in the field. He also emphasized that justice and human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be a long-term effort. Currently, many human rights violations had not been sufficiently addressed and would, thus, need to be examined by the new Congolese judicial institutions and the international community.
Responding to questions and comments, Mr. RAMCHARAN said it was indispensable to protect the sites of investigations. It was also necessary to support the conflict-prevention mechanism of the African Union and to establish a dialogue with the Union on that mechanism.
Asked how to address justice, he said the international community had the examples of the two international criminal Tribunals, the Court for Sierra Leone, the Court for Cambodia, the national court in Ethiopia dealing with past crimes, as well as the International Criminal Court. He encouraged the transitional Government to tackle the issues of justice. On how to ensure that justice was not secondary to reconciliation, he emphasized that it was first necessary to publish the facts. Then, everyone must be given the chance to pursue reconciliation, on the condition that there must be no impunity for crimes against humanity.
Turning to the possibility of sending an international team, he said that the right time to do so was when security conditions would permit it. Without protection, “it was a non-starter”. The Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had visited the country and was planning another visit soon. Sometimes, in such situations, it was useful to bring together a joint team of thematic rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights. The role of such a mission was to bring added authority and insight. It aimed to demonstrate to the international community that there was concern about a situation. In addition, the experts could document what was happening in the country.
Regarding how to engage the Government and neighbouring governments, he said that a possible conference on the Great Lakes region could give importance for human rights issues. For the time being, it was crucial to gather information and document the violations.
On how his Office would pursue the findings of the reports, he said that the Office would submit a paper on follow-up to today’s discussion. The reports required a considered response. The Office would help in gathering the information, publicizing it and identifying those responsible.
He noted that everything that was being done was through voluntary contributions. To mount an investigation or support national institutions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it would be necessary to launch an appeal for more voluntary contributions. It was his hope that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court would consider the matter. The limits of conscience had been achieved and it was now time for justice.
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