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UN:  Congolese Rebels Killed More Than 150 in Kisangani - 2002-06-27

A United Nations human rights investigator is accusing Rwandan-backed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo of massacring more than 150 people last month in the city of Kisangani. The investigator made the accusation at news conference Thursday in Geneva.

The U.N. Investigator, Asma Jahangir, is just back from a fact-finding mission to the Congo, where she said she gathered overwhelming evidence that a massacre occurred in Kisangani on May 14. She said rebels from the Congolese Rally for Democracy group, which controls the eastern Congo, killed civilians, soldiers and police in response to an attempted rebellion in the region.

Ms. Jahangir, who is the U.N.'s independent expert on extrajudicial executions, said people were shot, stabbed and hacked to death. Some had their bodies ripped open, filled with stones and thrown into the river to sink. She said at least 150 people were murdered.

"The fact remains that a massacre has been committed. And it is a grave human rights violation. It is not that the authorities have by mistake killed one or two people and they can explain it away. This is indefensible," Ms. Jahangir said.

Ms. Jahangir said the killings took place after mutineers occupied a radio station in Kisangani and called for an uprising. She said a crowd that gathered in the center of the city killed six people, but she said the majority of the murders were carried out by the rebel forces.

"People died in one area of the city. The government said they died in a cross-fire. My finding is that they were actually targeted killings at those people," she said. The rebels deny responsibility for the massacre and accuse U.N. officials of siding with the government in Kinshasa.

While the killing may have stopped, Ms. Jahangir said the situation in Kisangani remains explosive. She said there is no deterrence to violence because those responsible for the killings are never brought to justice.

The investigator will present her report to the U.N.'s top human rights official, Mary Robinson, next week. In mid-July, Ms. Robinson is expected to present these findings to the U.N. Security Council, which requested the mission.