A human rights group says civilians in eastern and northern Democratic
Republic of Congo are under increasing attack from all sides of the
conflicts raging there between Congolese and rebel forces. Human Rights
Watch alleges that the United Nations-backed Congolese army is failing
to protect civilians from the rebel forces and is committing its own
acts of atrocities against the local population.
The alleged acts of abuse
against civilians in the region include the burning of villages, sexual
assaults, killings, abductions, and forced labor.
Congolese army has been fighting the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, or
LRA, in northern Congo since December and the Hutu Democratic Forces
for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, in eastern Congo since January.
two outside rebel forces are deliberately attacking civilians as a
military tactic and are responsible for the vast majority of the
civilian deaths in the area. According to Human Rights Watch, the FDLR
has killed more than 400 civilians and the LRA more than 1,000
civilians since the fighting began.
Human Rights Watch accuses
the Congolese army of failing to protect civilians from the two rebel
forces and of being involved civilian killings itself. The organization
also found that Congolese forces are illegally conscripting the local
population into forced labor.
The local civilians continue to
suffer from widespread instances of rape by the Congolese forces. Since
the start of military operations in January, the human rights group
found that the rates of rape cases have doubled and tripled across the
Allegations of abuse by the Congolese army raise
questions about the role of the U.N. peacekeepers in the region
assigned in March to logistically support the Congolese forces.
Van Woudenberg, a Congo researcher for Human Rights Watch, says that
the U.N. peacekeepers' relative inaction towards stopping the human
rights violations of their partner is unacceptable.
worries us is that there has been limited attempt by U.N. peacekeepers
to try to reduce the abuses by the Congolese army," said Van
Woudenberg. "They need to take urgent steps to try and reduce the
abuses or they will risk becoming complicit in those abuses."
U.N. officials in Congo were not able to be reached for comment.
one instance on May 10, it is alleged that the FDLR killed 86 civilians
- the majority of whom were women and children - in the town of
Busurungi. This attack was possibly in retaliation for a Congolese
attack in late April against an FDLR position of Rwandan refugees near
The LRA, known for its tactic of abducting civilians
to fill its ranks, appears to be behind the spike in adult and child
abductions in the area.
Human Rights Watch researchers have
undertaken nine missions to the region since January to monitor the
situation on the ground.
It is estimated that more than one
million people in the region have been displaced in the region since
this round of fighting began.