United Nations rights chief urges global probe of Congo killings

Bruno Cirelli
Giugno 21, 2017

In his appeal to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein cited "harrowing" reports from U.N. rights experts he deployed this month to interview refugees from the central Kasai regions.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is likely to vote this week on whether to authorize such an investigation into violence that has killed hundreds in central Congo since last August, including two U.N. experts who were murdered earlier this year.

My team saw children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns.

Figures collated by the Roman Catholic church in a report dated June 19 show violence in the Kasai region has killed more than 3,300 people in eight months - a casualty figure far higher than the "more than 400 dead" given by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in April.

Fighting between security forces and militia members in central Democratic Republic of Congo killed more than 3,300 people since October, the country's Catholic Church said, as the government rejected a call by the United Nations for an worldwide investigation.

The UN also accuses the opposition Kamuina Nsapa militia of killing civilians thought to be loyal to the government, and of recruiting children as young as seven, many of whom are committing acts of violence themselves, apparently under the influence of drugs.

Violence erupted in the once peaceful Kasai region last August, after the death of a local leader during fighting with security forces.

The church report dated June 19 said 20 villages had been "completely destroyed", 10 of them by the DRC armed forces (FARDC), four by the tribal militias and six by unidentified forces.

Congo's Human Rights Minister Marie Ange Mushobekwa told the council her government was investigating the reports of atrocities and had nothing to hide, suggesting the accusations were politically motivated.

Forty-two mass graves have been documented by the Joint Human Rights Office in the Kasais.

"Hundreds of assailants also allegedly attacked the main health centre in the village and killed some 90 patients, medical personnel and others", he said, adding that more than 20 other villages had faced similar attacks. This worldwide investigation can establish the facts and determine individual responsibilities. "Beyond verifying whether these figures are true or not, it demonstrates that this is a real security situation that must absolutely lead to an appropriate government reaction to put an end to this", Lambert Mende told the wire service. Their bodies were later found in a shallow grave along with the body of their Congolese colleague.

Violence has increased since December, when President Joseph Kabila chose to stay in power beyond the end of his two-term mandate on the grounds that more time was needed to prepare for elections. US citizen Michael Sharp and Swedish citizen Zaida Catalan were there to investigate the increase in violence.

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