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UN Reports Human Rights Violations Increasing in DRC


The U.N. mission in the war-torn Ituri Province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo reports an upsurge in human rights violations, despite the arrival of a new multi-national force.

France's Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere says the French-led multi-national force is being deployed more rapidly than expected in Bunia. According to him, the force, approved earlier this month, "has already produced a return of security."

But Fred Eckhard, the spokesperson for Secretary General Kofi Annan, says human rights violations are increasing in Bunia.

"The systematic perpetration of arbitrary killings, rape and kidnapping by the Union of Congolese Patriots increases the tensions in the town and propels the most targeted communities to seek shelter again in the camp for internally displaced persons at the U.N. headquarters," he said.

Mr. Eckhard says the U.N. Mission to the Congo reported kidnappings and killings every night in Bunia during the week of June 8-June 15. More than 50 people disappeared in that week and only five have returned alive.

Ambassador de la Sabliere reported to the Security Council on a council mission he recently led to Central Africa. He said the diplomats delivered a message to the Congo and to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda that it is up to the countries in the region to restore security and implement peace accords. "We do not want the next set of victims to be the peace process itself if the political program of the transition is not materialized," said Mr. de la Sabliere. "And that is why all the parties must make sure that the armed groups do not receive foreign assistance, which enables them to go on fighting."

Rebel groups, backed by neighboring country have been fighting in the Congo's civil war since it broke out in 1998. More that three million people have died in the fighting.

Hundreds of civilians have been massacred in recent ethnic fighting between the Hema and Lendu tribes in the town of Bunia.

In the open council session on the mission, Congolese and Rwandan diplomats accused each other of not doing enough to implement the peace process. But they were united in their call for a more robust U.N. presence in the area.

The French-led, multi-national force of 1,400 troops has been authorized to remain in the Congo until September. But about 700 lightly armed U.N. peacekeepers, called MONUC, are also in Bunia. Their mandate expires at the end of June. The Security Council is expected to take up the issue of U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo later this month.

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