A major international Human Rights group has welcomed the release of a United Nations report documenting atrocities, including serious violations of human rights, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the decade between March 1993 and June 2003.
The report raises serious allegations of brutal and horrific mass killings, rape and other abuses during the period in question.
“It’s a powerful reminder of the events and the terrible crimes that took place in the DRC over this ten year period,” said Carina Tertsakian, a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch.
She said for all these years the perpetrators of these crimes - massacres, rapes, and other abuses against civilians- have not been brought to justice. “We hope the publication of this report will form the basis of concerted international action to begin setting up a process of justice for these crimes.”
Four African nations -- Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda -- have rejected or protested the report, which implicates their armed forces in the alleged crimes.
Tertsakian told VOA from London that she is not surprised by the protestations of these countries. “None of these governments has ever acknowledged or even less admitted that their troops took part in very serious human right abuses at that time.”
She said it is understandable that they should be sensitive to these allegations but added that “a blanket denial of the events and the rejection of the [UN] report is not really helpful.” “Instead of simply denying that these things happened they would do better to take the allegations seriously and cooperate with any international effort to follow up the findings of this report,” said Tertsakian.
The report, she added, merits a serious response from the UN and from its member states and particularly those governments of the Great Lakes region. The UN Security Council, she said, should insist that those states that are implicated in the report assist in efforts to bring about justice.
“We hope this report will act as a trigger for some action. It’s not too late, even though there should have been much stronger international action at the time (the crimes were committed).
Tertsakian said western governments can still prove their will to find solutions to the crisis in the region by acting and putting resources and political will behind the process of justice.
She decried earlier threats by Uganda and Rwanda to pull out their troops from peacekeeping operations if the report was released, and described their threats as blackmail.
Tertsakian urged the governments of Uganda and Rwanda to keep the issue of peacekeepers separate from the findings of the report.