14 February 2003
Security Council Briefed on Urgency of Ending Human Rights Violations, Culture of Impunity in Democratic Republic of Congo
NEW YORK, 13 February (UN Headquarters) -- In their dialogue with Security Council members regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this afternoon, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Sergio Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, underlined the need to put an end to the human rights violations and the culture of impunity in that country.
Mr. Guéhenno noted that there had been heavy fighting in the Ituri region, despite the signing on 16 to 17 December in Pretoria of the All-Inclusive Agreement. In December, the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC) and its ally, the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-National (RCD-N), had stepped up offensive operations in the direction of Beni against the forces of the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-Kisangani/Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K/ML). Some forces of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) reportedly had participated, as well. Thousands of people had been displaced.
The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had been able to broker a truce on 30 December, providing for withdrawal and disengagement, as well as access for humanitarian relief. Withdrawal had been completed on 3 February, he said. However, the UPC had taken over Komanda, had recruited child soldiers and had acquired military equipment. He emphasized that the situation in the north-east was of growing concern. The MONUC had been working hard to defuse tensions and recommended peace-building mechanisms. The situation in Ituri might prove to be a new flashpoint between Uganda and Rwanda.
Regarding MONUC's future role in the area of human rights, he recognized the leading role of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. If there was no end to the present culture of impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, progress sought on the political front might be hard to achieve. The Council might consider a host of actions to ensure that more attention was paid to human rights concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said.
Mr. Vieira de Mello, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed an imperative need to continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and report on it, saying that the Pretoria peace process should be based on solid human rights grounds.
He said that all the parties to the conflict continued to commit grave violations of human rights. The situation was exacerbated by the impunity enjoyed by those committing those violations, including government officials. Most shocking violations of human rights included some 220 extrajudicial executions, 122 cases of forced disappearances, 95 cases of rape, and 32 cases of torture. Witnesses also described such atrocities as mutilations followed by cannibalism. The warring parties were not allowing humanitarian workers to the areas under their control, which made it difficult to provide assistance to the population displaced by the conflict.
Regarding a future course of action, he said that the Council might wish to demand again that the belligerents and their foreign supporters put an immediate end to human rights violations and the culture of impunity. Those responsible for such crimes should be immediately arrested and brought to justice, including those who continued to exercise military command functions.
It was also important to create effective judicial and national human rights protection systems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. Consideration should be given to the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to look into all serious human rights violations committed by all sides. He also expected that the Commission on Human Rights would continue to closely monitor the situation through its Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members supported the course of action outlined by the key speakers and expressed support for proposals regarding an international commission of inquiry. They called on neighbouring countries to exert their influence on the parties in the conflict to respect human rights.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the demand for justice was an integral part for any lasting peace. The message of the international community and the Council had been lacking in clarity in that regard. If the Council had had the will to implement its resolutions, certain individuals and parties could not have continued the violations of human rights. He called on the Council to support the Pretoria agreement. That comprehensive agreement could be adopted formally during the last meeting of the inter-Congolese dialogue, possibly in Kisangani, a city which had paid heavy tribute during the war.
To end the cycle of violence and culture of impunity, he called on the Council to set up an international tribunal to prosecute those who had committed atrocities in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Regarding the acts of cannibalism committed in Ituri, his country retained the right to resort to the competence of its own national tribunals and reserved the right to go before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Congolese people also demanded just reparations for damages suffered, and the Council could intervene to that end with Uganda and Rwanda. There was also a need to convene an international conference on peace and security in the countries of the Great Lakes region.
Also speaking at today's meeting were the representatives of Pakistan, France, Russian Federation, United States, United Kingdom, Chile, Bulgaria, Angola, China, Mexico, Syria, Spain, Cameroon, Germany, as well as Rwanda.
The meeting started at 3:35 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:55 p.m.
The current conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo dates from August 1998, when, in an attempt to stabilize the country and consolidate his control, then President Laurent Kabila expelled the Rwandan troops that remained in the country after his 1997 victory. That action prompted several army mutinies, which mushroomed into a drive to topple the Government. The conflict soon evolved into a regional dispute, with Rwanda and Uganda, citing concerns about border security, supporting the rebels. President Kabila was supported by Angola, Namibia, Chad, Zimbabwe, and the Congolese army.
A ceasefire agreement was signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 1999 by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, with the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC) -- one of the rebel groups -- signing on in August. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) was established in November 1999 to help monitor implementation. The ceasefire agreement calls for normalization along the borders, control of illicit trafficking of arms and the infiltration of armed groups, and the holding of a national dialogue (the inter-Congolese dialogue).
Despite several outbursts of violence in 2002, there were some positive developments, including the withdrawal of more than 20,000 Rwandan troops, as well as withdrawals by Uganda, Zimbabwe and Angola.
On 30 July 2002, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda signed an agreement in Pretoria that called for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the dismantling of the ex-Forces armées rwandaises (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia.
In resolution 1445 of December 2002, the Council authorized MONUC's expansion to up to 8,700 military personnel in two task forces, mandating the deployment of a second task force when the Secretary-General determines that disarmament, demobilization and repatriation needs could not be carried out by the first task force alone.
JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in support of the Facilitator's -- Sir Ketumile Masire -- efforts to convene the final session of the inter-Congolese Dialogue, Special Envoy Moustapha Niasse, together with South Africa, was convening from 20 to 25 February two technical committees to address finalization of the transitional constitution and security/military questions. The Facilitator thought it would be useful for the Council to encourage parties to cooperate with him and Mr. Niasse, in order to reach quick agreement on outstanding issues.
Regarding the military situation, he said there had been heavy fighting in the Ituri region, despite the signing on 16 to 17 December of the All-Inclusive Agreement. In December, MLC and its ally, the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD)-N, stepped up offensive operations in the direction of Beni against the forces of RCD-K/ML. Some forces of the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) reportedly participated, as well. Thousands of people were displaced. The MONUC was able to broker a truce that was signed on 30 December in Gbadolite, providing for withdrawal and disengagement and access for humanitarian relief. Withdrawal was completed on 3 February.
However, UPC took over Komanda. The Special Representative and the MONUC Force Commander had urged UPC to withdraw, but to no avail. The UPC forces had continued their advance. The UPC had recruited child soldiers and had acquired military equipment. The MONUC was deeply concerned about claims of UPC leader Thomas Lubanga that he had the sole right to control the region. It had been alleged that Rwanda backed UPC. The RCD-K/ML was being supported by a sizable number of FAC troops. On 12 February, an Ituri leader had announced a new grouping to oppose UPC and had called for the retention of Ugandan forces in Ituri. Any further conflict in the area would have major regional implications.
He emphasized that the situation in the north-east was of growing concern. The MONUC had been working hard to defuse tensions and recommend peace-building mechanisms. The Force Commander was currently in Benin urging restraint in what had evolved into a dangerous situation not only for Ituri-based groups, but what also might prove to be a new flashpoint between Uganda and Rwanda. An amendment to the Luanda accord had been signed between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda allowing for a new timetable for the work of the envisioned Ituri Pacification Committee. That Committee was now expected to begin work on 17 February and conclude its work by 20 March.
Regarding MONUC's future role in the area of human rights, he recognized the leading role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. If there was no end to the present culture of impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, progress sought on the political front might be hard to achieve. The Council might consider a host of actions to ensure that more attention was paid to human rights concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Briefing the Council on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that after the Council had condemned human rights violations in the district of Ituri last month, his Office had continued observations in the region. In general, all the parties to the conflict had continued to inflict grave violations of human rights. The impunity enjoyed by those committing those violations, including Government officials, represented a serious obstacle to normalizing the situation in the country.
The human rights situation in the country was very difficult, and it was deteriorating further, he continued. The warring parties were not allowing humanitarian workers to the areas under their control, which made it difficult to provide assistance to the population displaced by the conflict. Economic interests, which were the reason for continued plundering of natural resources and State revenues, remained a destabilizing factor. Rapid deterioration of the economy was also a serious concern as it led to wide-spread corruption, making the public administration ineffective.
At the end of last year, MONUC had dispatched a team to conduct an inquiry into allegations of serious violations of human rights in the country. It had confirmed plundering and rape committed by MLC, RCD-N and UPC in October and December 2002. Witnesses described such atrocities as mutilations followed by cannibalism and extra-judicial executions of persons from several ethnic groups. Most shocking violations of human rights included some 220 extrajudicial executions, 122 cases of forced disappearances, 95 cases of rape and 32 cases of torture.
Systematic looting of buildings, including hospitals, churches and individual homes, was also confirmed during the visit of the team to Mambasa and Mandima, he said. The planned military operation, carried out by forces of the MLC, was called in code "Effacer le tableau". The MLC leader had admitted to the veracity of the charges and promised to prosecute those suspected of having committed those crimes. According to reports, 27 officers had been arrested and their trial was scheduled for 18 February. While welcoming that acknowledgement of responsibility, he had not agreed to a request that his Office in Kinshasa observe those trials as the rebel military judicial system in place lacked legitimacy and did not conform to international legal and human rights standards. Such crimes should fall within the jurisdiction of the transitional justice mechanism that would be put in place under the Pretoria Global and Inclusive Agreement.
The crisis around Beni/Mambasa had also led to the displacement of over 100,000 people, he said. In January, several United Nations agencies participated in humanitarian assessment missions to the area. By mid-January, many of the displaced persons had begun to return towards Mambasa and Eringeti, but large numbers had dispersed into the forest where access was difficult. Food insecurity was a predominant concern.
A recent mission to Bunia had confirmed gross violations of human rights, including group rapes of women, extra-judicial executions and the looting and burning of homes, he continued. In Nyakunde, well over 200 killings had been reported. Similar atrocities had reported in Kindu and group rapes appeared to have been frequently carried out in Kivu. In the areas controlled by UPC since August 2002, the human rights situation had deteriorated significantly. The information gathered revealed that prosecution on ethnic and tribal grounds, extortion of property, sexual violence against women, extra-judicial executions and forced recruitment of children were being committed by UPC-RP military personnel. That situation had forced thousands of civilians to flee south from Bunia and Irumu, Mambasa and Beni. The past months in the district of Ituri had also been marked by massive human rights violations.
There was an imperative need to continue to monitor closely the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and report on it, because of its implications, he concluded. The Council may wish to demand again that the belligerents and their foreign supporters put an immediate end to human rights violations and the culture of impunity. Those responsible for such crimes should be immediately arrested and brought to justice, including those who continued to exercise military command functions. He also expected the Commission on Human Rights through its Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, would continue to closely monitor the situation. The Special Rapporteur would be visiting the country before reporting to the Commission at its upcoming forty-ninth session.
In his written report, he had named three senior officers of the RCD/Goma who were alleged to have been involved in the 14 May 2002 massacres and had not been brought to trial, he said. As for the MLC military officers involved in crimes, their names should be obtainable as their leader had reportedly placed them under arrest. He had also named the commander of the government forces allegedly involved in human rights violations in the province of Katanga last November, as well as leaders of rebel groups who should be held responsible for gross violations committed under their command. It was necessary to prevent their integration into the Pretoria Agreement transitional mechanisms until their names had been cleared through a credible judicial process or inquiry.
It was important to ensure that the Pretoria peace process was based on solid human rights grounds, he said. It was also important to create effective judicial and national human rights protection systems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Consideration should be given to the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to look into all serious human rights violations committed by all sides. It was crucial for future peace that those responsible for those acts be held accountable. His Office stood ready to continue to assist, in close consultation with MONUC, in strengthening the monitoring and reporting capacity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in expanding its support and activities during the transitional process. A clear mandate from the Council would strengthen his office's and MONUC's ability to play fully their roles.
MASSOOD KHALID (Pakistan) condemned all abuse of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and stressed that perpetrators must be brought to justice. Approximately 2.5 million people in the conflict had died, mostly civilians. Of serious concern was that the continued fighting would destabilize the situation and endanger the implementation of peace accords. The international community must take bold decisions.
What was needed was commitment from all sides to guarantee the safety and well-being of all civilians, he said, asking how that objective could be achieved. He also asked what efforts the international community and the regional actors could take to have all parties refrain from violence and to urge them to seek a negotiated solution. Could the Council consider the further strengthening of MONUC beyond the present Phase III expansion.
JEAN-MARC de LA SABLIÈRE (France) said that the information presented in the briefing was extremely disturbing. As already stated to the Kinshasa authorities, death sentences were unacceptable. The atrocities in the east of the country were reaching unprecedented proportions. The abuses and the fighting were unacceptable, particularly as the Pretoria Agreement was now in place. In response to the message from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, France would take part in drafting a Presidential Statement by the Council as it was necessary to send an unambiguous message to the parties. It was also necessary to agree on the immediate steps in implementation of the agreement reached, including the constitution and making secure the transitional arrangements leading toward the holding of elections. Otherwise, the hopes arising from the Pretoria Agreement would vanish. Priority attention should be given to the east of the country.
ALEXANDER V. KONUZIN (Russian Federation) said the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to be a source of serious concern. Even after the agreement had been signed in December, armed conflict had broken out in the northeast of the country. He noted that not all parties had signed the agreement and that some parties continued to put forward demands and increase their armed forces. During the destabilization of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some non-Congolese parties were trying to strengthen their influence, which could lead to unpredictable consequences, deterioration of the humanitarian situation and violations of human rights. The situation was still extremely worrying, because the parties in the conflict were continuing to create different obstacles. That state of affairs must be ended, he said.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON (United States) said that ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a source of serious concern. It was a threat to the fragile peace process. Unfortunately, the promise of political progress in recent months had not been translated into real progress on the ground. The catastrophic humanitarian situation and continued atrocities confirmed that human rights should be at the centre of the efforts to foster peace and form the transitional Government in the country. He was shocked at the continuing suffering of the people by those who claimed to want to protect the country and revolted that members of an armed faction which intended to take power in a future Government could engage in those acts of torture, rape, killing and cannibalism.
There were no quick answers to the difficult situation in the country, he continued. Protection of human rights must become a priority. Implementation of the peace agreements should not come at the price of letting those involved in violations escape justice. He wanted to know if there were measurable benchmarks the Council could expect from the new transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and what United Nations institutions could do to help the transition. The MONUC's human rights office was effectively carrying out its monitoring and reporting functions. He wondered if the Mission should have a more proactive role. He also wanted to hear the High Commissioner's views on ways his office could work with MONUC to ensure that trials conducted by Mr. Bemba, head of the MLC, were thorough and fair.
His Government would also appreciate any information the High Commissioner could provide on follow-up by the RCD-Goma and the status of any investigations by the Special Rapporteur and the Special Representative on Executions. Responsibility for investigating the crimes and violations of international humanitarian laws lay with the leadership of the factions responsible, just as the responsibility for guaranteeing the human rights of the Congolese people lay now with the political leaders claiming a role in a new Government. It was important to remain vigilant so that none of them evaded their responsibilities.
ADAM THOMSON (United Kingdom) condemned the atrocities in Ituri as well as all abuses of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and called on the parties to bring the perpetrators to justice. Continuing military activities and support for the armed groups from inside or outside the country was unacceptable. All military activities of the armed groups should be halted, and security of all those in areas under their control should be protected. Work must begin now on breaking down mistrust and laying a foundation for a unified country. The issue of security of the transitional administration must be addressed first in that regard.
Regional players too must exert their influence on parties to move forward and refrain from action that could increase tension, he said. He welcomed announcement that Ugandan troops would be withdrawn and urged the Government of Rwanda to stop arming the UPC. The verifications role of MONUC was also crucial. Investigation of allegations must be factual and impartial, requiring full cooperation of all parties.
He said human rights was an area where interaction between the humanitarian and military side of MONUC was crucial. How could that be strengthened? he asked. Early demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of all child soldiers must be a priority. He therefore asked how that activity was integrated in MONUC's activities.
GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) expressed his country's concern over the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was particularly shocking that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, such atrocities and systematic violations of human rights, including extra-judicial executions, sexual violence and displacement of people, were being committed in the country. Of equal concern was the information about the participation of children in the conflict and their forced recruitment. He fully supported all the conclusions presented by Mr. Vieira de Mello. It appeared that the Council should investigate all allegations of violations of human rights and promote full implementation of the Pretoria Agreement. It was important to strengthen the public institutions in the country to give greater legitimacy to the transitional Government, prosecute those guilty of human rights violations and increase control over the human rights situation in the country.
STEFAN TAFROV (Bulgaria) said the report of the High Commissioner was of grave concern. The level of atrocities committed in the eastern part had become completely untenable. The Council must pay more attention to that aspect and strengthen cooperation with the High Commissioner. The future of the Democratic Republic of the Congo could not be based on a culture of impunity. It could in no way contribute to the establishment of stable institutions and national reconciliation. The establishment of a human rights observer function in the country and an international commission of investigation were timely and should be supported by the Council. It was important that those guilty of abuses be brought before the institutions of justice in the transitional authority without delay.
He supported the wish of the High Commissioner for a clear mandate to be given to him by the Council to strengthen his and MONUC's capabilities in order to improve the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He asked what the nature and the timing of that mandate might be.
ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said that today's briefing presented the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which his delegation found serious indeed. That particularly referred to the well documented atrocities and human rights violations, particularly in the eastern part of the country. Those violations were a clear impediment to the peace process in the country, and Mr. Vieira de Mello's conclusions should be looked at very seriously. The perpetrators of crimes must be brought to justice.
The situation in the country would continue to deteriorate unless the inter-Congolese dialogue and the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement were achieved, he continued. The Council needed to send a clear signal to the parties of the conflict on the need to follow the signed agreements. His Government was a participant in MONUC, and it would continue to play its role in the efforts to bring peace to the DRC.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said development on the whole in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was encouraging, but the situation was still fragile. The power-sharing agreement had been signed, but a ceasefire had not been achieved. Armed groups had continued to engage in fighting, causing a humanitarian disaster and massive violations of human rights. He called on all parties to strictly comply with the power-sharing agreement and condemned all acts of indiscriminate killing.
He hoped that the countries concerned would abide by their commitments for troop withdrawal. The MONUC should step up its Phase III deployment to consolidate the results of the peace efforts, specifically by completing the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. He informed the Council that Chinese peacekeepers for the Democratic Republic of the Congo were ready to set out upon orders.
Mr. PUJALTE (Mexico) said that his delegation profoundly regretted the confirmation of war crimes and human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that it had heard today. It was particularly disturbing to hear about rapes, cannibalism and summary executions. In order to improve the human rights situation, the Pretoria Agreement must be implemented. Of great importance also were such measures as the establishment of a commission on truth and reconciliation and bringing those guilty before the courts. The Council must demand that parties to the conflict respect the human rights and the agreements achieved in the country. He urged Mr. Bemba to take all measures necessary to compensate for damages inflicted by his group and bring those guilty of crimes to justice. Towards that end, the creation of national courts was of particular importance.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the exhaustive information provided, which pointed to the fragile situation of human rights and the flagrant violations of them. He stressed the importance of parties respecting the agreement concluded in Pretoria and the Luanda agreement between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. He called on all parties to bring to justice violators of human rights. He also stressed the importance of the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration programme. There was also a need to guarantee the safety of the humanitarian workers.
He was concerned about reported violations of human rights, the indiscriminate killings, the situation of displaced persons and the food shortages in the Ituri region, and called on the donor community to provide assistance soon. He encouraged the inter-Congolese dialogue to arrive at a solution for representation in the country's transitional government. Concluding, he commended the efforts made by African countries to find a solution to the Congolese crisis, particularly efforts by the South African leadership.
ANA MARIA MENENDEZ (Spain) condemned the violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and said her delegation expected those guilty to be brought to justice. The situation in Ituri testified to the gravity of the situation and the need to begin effective implementation of the Pretoria Agreement. She wanted to know what measures the transitional government needed to take to correct the catastrophic situation in the country. Also, how could access to the vulnerable population be ensured?
MARTIN BELINGA-EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said he was concerned by the constant deterioration of the situation in the north-east and the Ituri region. Despite the Pretoria agreement, fighting had continued among various armed groups. Those clashes had lead to many civilian victims, as well as to major movements of the population. The Ituri population was living through a real tragedy, faced with mass violations of human rights. There had been talk about massacres, rape and pillage. The situation was unacceptable, and those guilty of such acts must answer for them. Impunity was unimaginable.
The situation of refugees and displaced persons had been accentuated by lack of access of humanitarian workers due to lack of infrastructure and security. He called on the international community to intensify efforts to come to the assistance of the suffering population. Similar efforts must also be made for the victims of a tornado in the west of the country. He stressed the need for leaders to respect the commitments they had subscribed to in order to allow the country to find peace and prosperity. He welcomed the recent meeting between Presidents Kabila and Museveni and their commitments to set up the Commission on the Pacification in Ituri and to create mechanisms to consult on a regular basis.
He asked the High Commissioner for clarification of measures the international community might take to ensure that perpetrators of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would not go unpunished. He asked whether a special jurisdiction should be created or if the mass violations of human rights should be taken to the International Criminal Court.
Speaking in his national capacity, President of the Council GUNTER PLEUGER (Germany) agreed with other speakers that the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was appalling. Among the key factors that contributed to the difficult situation were the culture of impunity and the link between the plundering of resources and continuation of fighting. The third factor that exacerbated the conflict was a continuing flow of arms to the country. Without stopping such a flow, the country would continue to fall victim to fighting and impunity.
Regarding the intended integration of high-ranking officials of various parties into a transitional government, he said that perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to justice. Against that background, he wanted to know if there was genuine readiness to do that by any of the parties to conflict. As rape and sexual violence were used as tools of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Germany also wanted to know about the efforts to strengthen the gender perspective in MONUC. A clearer picture was needed on human rights situation in various areas under rebel control.
ATOKI ILEKA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) thanked the Council members for having denounced all atrocities committed. Citing several instances of atrocities committed over the past years throughout the country, he said the massacres of peaceful Congolese could not longer be counted. He recalled the horror of 50 women having been buried alive in Mwenga. In Ituri, Lendus and Hemos had been massacred at the instigation of Ugandan troops. Nobody could ignore that the majority of victims were civilians, particularly women and children. Repeated rapes had become a tactic of war, combined with the deliberate spread of the HIV/AIDS virus.
He said situation of human rights in his country was a source of constant concern for his Government. Despite the state of war, it should be noted that in all circumstances the Government had tried to preserve human rights. The dissemination of a culture of human rights had greatly contributed to reducing violations of human rights in the part controlled by the Government.
The rush for the wealth of his country resulting in the plunder of its natural resources in violation of its national sovereignty was linked to armed aggression, he said. His Government had constantly deplored the denial of justice to victims of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. The demand for justice was an integral part for any lasting peace. The message of the international community and the Council was lacking in clarity in that regard. If the Council had had the will to implement its resolutions, certain individuals and parties could not have continued the violations of human rights.
He called on the Council to support the Pretoria agreement. The comprehensive agreement could be adopted formally during the last meeting of the inter-Congolese dialogue. It would be important if that meeting could be held on Congolese territory in Kisangani, a city which had paid heavy tribute during the war. Holding the last meeting in Kisangani was a sign of solidarity and a tribute to the victims of armed aggression.
He hoped the Council would follow the recommendations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Council must also call for an end to impunity and urge all neighbouring countries to exert their influence on the parties to respect human rights. The Council must also attain total withdrawal of all foreign troops from the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The allowed strength of MONUC should be reached as soon as possible.
To end the cycle of violence and culture of impunity, he called on the Council to up an international tribunal to prosecute those who had committed atrocities in the country's territory. Regarding the acts of cannibalism committed in Ituri, his country retained the right to resort to the competence of its own national tribunals and the International Criminal Court (ICC) and reserved the right to go before the ICC. The Congolese people demanded just reparations for damages suffered. Resolution 1304 (2000) offered a framework for the Council to intervene with Uganda and Rwanda to seek those reparations. There was also a need to convene an international conference on peace and security in the countries of the Great Lakes region.
AUGUSTIN MUVUNYI (Rwanda) said his Government fully supported the return of peace and security to the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He denied Mr. Guehenno's statement that Rwanda supported the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), as well as his words regarding the possibility of a confrontation with Uganda. As for the allegations by the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they were baseless, because Rwanda had left that country. Rwanda had entered the Democratic Republic because, for a long time, that country had been a base of criminals who destabilized the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda. The existence of negative forces operating in the Democratic Republic was a real threat to the population who were displaced and forced to live in unbearable conditions. Rwanda appreciated the good job by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and non-governmental organizations giving emergency relief to the population.
He strongly condemned the violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and requested that Government to implement all the peace agreements signed in Lusaka, Pretoria and Angola, in order to achieve peace and security in the Great Lakes region. It was in conformity with those agreements that it was necessary to put in place an all-inclusive government, which should address the humanitarian situation in the country. The transitional institutions would solve the chronic problems of the country, including corruption and insecurity. They would also address the security concerns of the neighbouring countries.
And finally, he said that he wanted to take today's opportunity to dispel the alarming information of 31 January, spread by MONUC and the Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was indeed a well known fact that Rwanda Defence Forces had totally withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 5 October 2002. A few days later, that had been confirmed by MONUC itself, as well as the report of the third-party verification mechanism. Rwanda condemned rumours and unconfirmed reports spread by alarmists in order to tarnish its image. He asked the Council members not to give credit to such baseless allegations.
Responding to questions and comments, Mr. GUEHENNO reiterated the importance of an absence of outside interference. He hoped that all neighbouring countries would encourage parties to work with MONUC to put in place mechanisms for pacification of the Ituri region.
He said the ultimate responsibility for protection of the civilians remained the responsibility of the parties. It was, however, clear that MONUC's presence was reassuring. At the moment, there were about 4,400 uniformed personnel. Assets were moved as fast as possible to the east, and task forces there would be most effective if they were strong and mobile. In that regard, he noted that MONUC was still looking for a unit of attack helicopters.
Regarding MONUC's role in preserving human rights, he said MONUC's first effort in that regard was to observe wherever possible, which was important as a deterrent. Children and women were in special need for protection and established cooperation with UNICEF and MONUC was important in that regard. The MONUC had taken the gender dimension into consideration and had established an office for gender affairs. Regarding the trial organized by MLC, he said that such a de facto tribunal could not be sanctioned, but that, at the same time, there was a need to observe and report.
In answer to a question raised by Germany about the political will of leaders to bring perpetrators to justice, he said the political process being developed could be important. That process should be an incentive for political leaders to build their legitimacy by exhibiting behaviour compatible with their future position in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An accountable police and military would be required, as well as a functional justice system and the availability of effective investigative mechanisms, in order to end the culture of impunity.
Also responding to Council members' comments, Mr. VIEIRA DE MELLO expressed his gratitude for the Council's unanimous support for the protection of human rights as a fundamental pillar for building peace. Peace was a precondition for the implementation of the inter-Congolese dialogue. Also needed was implementation of the Pretoria Agreement.
A clear mandate was needed for MONUC and the Office of the High Commissioner in order for them to be more effective, he said. Suspects who had been clearly identified must be suspended from their military duties and arrested. An early establishment of the transitional jurisdiction to tackle gross violations of human rights was very important, as was the truth and reconciliation commission. "We must demand that all the parties allow humanitarian agencies access to populations in need. This is not a negotiable matter", he added.
There was, indeed, a request by the Commission on Human Rights that special rapporteurs go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That had been impossible to date because of security and financial reasons.
Although his Office had not received an invitation from the parties concerned to provide advice and technical expertise in investigating and prosecuting human rights abuses, he had offered such assistance. As for the proceedings of the court established by Mr. Bemba, his Office would find it difficult to observe the proceedings of a jurisdiction established by a rebel group, which lacked legitimacy. LCD-Goma had also promised to prosecute all suspects.
Turning to the questions regarding access to vulnerable populations, he said that, first of all, cooperation of the parties was needed. Also, a mandate and a greater capacity for MONUC were needed to provide protection for humanitarian workers. As for bringing cases before an international court, that would be possible, once the Democratic Republic of the Congo had ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC.
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