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Rights Groups Want Congo Back on UN Watch List

  • Lisa Schlein

Fifty human rights groups from around the world are calling on the U.N. Secretary-General and High Commissioner for Human Rights to reinstate the mandate for a human rights monitor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The groups say recent reports of atrocities committed in the DRC confirm the need for continued monitoring of the country's human rights record.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been off the U.N.'s watch list since March 2008 when the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council buckled under pressure from a number of states.

Egypt, other Arab and African states, and Russia were among those who spearheaded the move to fire the expert appointed to keep an eye on Congo's human rights situation.

Executive Director of the human rights group U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer, calls this a cynical maneuver.

He tells VOA the conflict in the Congo reportedly has killed some five million people in the past 10 years. He acknowledges human rights experts cannot put a stop to such huge violations.

"But, it is one extra voice," said Neuer. "It is one critical voice that can take advantage of the spotlight that the U.N. provides, the podium the U.N. provides and to be the voice for the voiceless. And, the governments at the Human Rights Council, the majority in the Human Rights Council oppose this because they do not want scrutiny of their human rights abuses. And, it is time for the international community to say no to this. It is time for the human rights community to try and make a difference and bring back the monitors who could be a voice for those victims."

Neuer says the Council action on the Congo is not an exception, but part of a pattern that has been emerging since the Council was created in 2006.

He says a new majority of non-democratic nations has taken over to the detriment of human rights. He says this group openly declares it is opposed to any investigation on countries, claiming this is discriminatory.

"The result was that in the past three years, since the Council was created replacing the former Human Rights Commission, the expert, the monitor on human rights abuses in Liberia was fired. The expert on human rights violations on Cuba, the monitor was eliminated. The expert on Byelorusse was eliminated. The six-man team on Darfur was eliminated. And, you go on and on. Now there are about 10 or less left. And, one by one they are being picked off," said Neuer.

The coalition of 50 human rights groups calling for the reinstatement of the monitor on the DRC includes 14 African non-governmental organizations and 36 more from countries such as Iran, India, the United States and several European nations.

Neuer says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay can effectively use their so-called bully pulpits to push and prod the international community to be more serious in its pursuit of human rights.

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