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UN Raps Congo on Human Rights Abuse

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says she is alarmed over the increasing number of killings and other human-rights violations recorded during the past few days in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province. Escalating fighting between government and rebel forces has displaced tens of thousands of civilians. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Top U.N. human rights official Navi Pillay is calling on all parties to respect human rights international law. She says she fears a repeat of the same kind of horrendous human-rights violations that have occurred during previous outbreaks of fighting in this region.

These she says have included large-scale summary and arbitrary executions, rapes, disappearances, torture, harassment, unlawful arrest and arbitrary detention.

The High Commissioner's spokesman, Rupert Colville, says during the past few days, a number of fresh violations have been recorded by U.N. human rights staff in North Kivu.

"In the provincial capital Goma, looting, killings and rapes appear to have been carried out primarily by soldiers belonging to the national army known as the FARDC, many of whom fled the fighting further north," said Colville. "Other very serious abuses, including targeted killings, have been reported from areas held by forces of the National Congress for the Defense of the People, commanded by Laurent Nkunda."

Colville recounts a number of specific cases of abuse committed by Congolese government troops. He says U.N. human rights officers visited a number of houses. He says they gathered information about civilians, including children, who were murdered and wounded while soldiers were looting the premises.

He says U.N. human-rights monitors have documented violations perpetrated by rebel troops or forces of the National Congress for the Defense of the People, known by the acronym CNDP.

"In rebel-held areas north of Goma, CNDP fighters are reported to have fired indiscriminately at a clinic into which government soldiers had fled, leading to civilian casualties, and later in the week a similar incident took place at a clinic in Rutshuru," said Colville. "Human-rights activists appear to be targeted. Activists in both Goma and rebel-held areas have told U. N. staff that they have been threatened or narrowly escaped being killed. There is fear of both forces, the army and CNDP."

Colville says there is no figure on the total number of civilians killed.

U.N. High Commissioner Pillay is calling for the government of Joseph Kabila to put in place radical institutional reforms. She says the country's security forces must be taught to fully respect the human rights of its citizens.

She notes most violations in North Kivu's provincial capital, Goma should not have happened because they were committed by looting soldiers belonging to the government forces.

She is urging the government to take swift and significant action to control its soldiers and to protect the civilian population.