The United Nation's Human Rights chief, Navi Pillay, condemns human
rights abuses in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and says
government forces and rebel groups are possibly guilty of war crimes
and crimes against humanity.
Two reports by the U.N. peacekeeping force in the DRC and the
Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights describe some
particularly heinous crimes committed by rebel groups and Congolese
These reports document violations by Congolese
security forces and various armed groups that occurred during a spike
in fighting in North Kivu in October and November, 2008. The most
serious abuses include extra-judicial executions and wide scale rapes
and sexually based gender violence.
Scott Campbell, the chief of
the African Section of the U.N. Human Rights Office, says these
atrocities are committed on a massive scale. And, rape and sexual
violence are a daily occurrence.
"Impunity is the norm," said
Campbell. "The few perpetrators that have been held accountable are the
exception to the rule. Many of those that are prosecuted and sentenced
and end up in a jail are subsequently freed or simply walk out the door
as there are prisons in Congo that simply do not have doors. This has
been the situation in the Congo for many years."
One of the
reports focuses on the actions of government forces, some of whom
engaged in large-scale pillaging, arbitrary killings and sexual
violence. The report says these abuses were targeted against the very
people they were supposed to be protecting in eastern Congo's
provincial capital of Goma, and in surrounding towns and villages.
U.N. High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, expresses particular concern about
the actions of the National Congress for the Defense of the People
militia. The group's former leader, Laurent Nkunda was arrested in
January in Rwanda.
She says the actions of the CNDP could well amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
of cases of killings and rapes are documented in the U.N. reports. But,
Scott Campbell says the real total is probably much higher.
excess deaths reported in the Congo since 1998 make the conflict there
the bloodiest conflict on the Planet since World War II," he said.
"That is including Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. So, the scale of violations
that have been committed there and the scale of active killing and
death due to a lack of humanitarian service, access to health, etc.,
exceeds any other catastrophe on the Planet."
The U.N.'s Human
Rights chief says the judicial response to the abuses have been wholly
insufficient. She calls for concrete and immediate action to hold
perpetrators accountable, particularly since sexual violence continues
to take place on a daily basis.