The U.N.'s top human rights official has singled out five leaders of a mutiny in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying they may be among the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses in the world.
In a Tuesday statement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the five men may be responsible for war crimes, and said she fears they will inflict more atrocities on civilians in eastern Congo.
Scott Campbell, the commissioner's representative in Kinshasa, says fighting between government forces and rebels is threatening civilians, many of whom have fled the North Kivu region.
"This mutiny, in particular, creates grave risks in terms of civilians and the protection of the civilian population, and we thought it was important to name them by names," he said.
The men Pillay identified include militia leader Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
Ntaganda, also known as "The Terminator," is leading rebels who began fighting the military in late April. Members of his group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), were integrated into the army in 2009, but the soldiers deserted earlier this year after complaining of poor conditions and low pay.
The other four rebel leaders named by the commission are former army colonels Sultani Makenga, Baudouin Ngaruye, Innocent Zimurinda and Innocent Kaina.
Campbell says some of the men are linked to atrocities dating back 10 years.
"Many of them have been involved in massacres of civilians, including women and children," he said. "Many of them have been involved in the recruitment of children into armed groups or into the Congolese armed forces. Many of them have been involved in sexual violence."
The commission urged all parties involved in the unrest to respect international human rights and humanitarian law and take the steps to protect civilians.