Amnesty international says the displacement of thousands of people in the eastern DRC has created both a humanitarian and a human rights crisis.
Amnesty International researcher Theo Boutruche says the M23 rebels have a terrible human rights record.
“The fact that they control Goma - and now they extended their area of control - there’s also concern with regard to the type of abuses they could commit and also the protection of human rights defenders, who actually documented abuses committed in the past by the M23,” he said.
He outlined some of the allegations made against the M23.
“We were actually in Goma and in Rutshuru Territory this year. So we documented cases of unlawful killings, forced recruitment of young adults and children, also cases of forced labor - children as young as 12 years old being forced to dig out trenches for the M23, including also cases of RAPE,” he said
Boutruche said there’s been a lot of criticism of U.N. peacekeeping troops being unable to protect Goma. However, he describes the MONUSCO force as overstretched.
“At the same time we need to bear in mind that the Congolese army fled Goma and of course this had a direct impact on the ability of the U.N. to do its work. With the current situation now I think the biggest concern is that there may be new fighting breaking out because there’s an already chaotic situation with mass displacement of civilians,” he said.
He said in the short term, the M23 must be monitored for possible human rights abuses, and measures must be taken to protect the displaced.
Amnesty International also warns that the focus on the M23 has left many other areas in eastern DRC without protection. Civilians are again very vulnerable to other armed groups. Amnesty gives the example of the town of Masisi where many civilians recently have been killed.