GENEVA - The United Nations reports human rights violations have surged over the past two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu Province as security in that conflict-ridden region has worsened.
A report issued by the U.N. human rights office documents hundreds of cases of violations against civilians in North Kivu province between January 2017 and October 2018. It said a significant increase in the number of armed groups fighting against each other and the Congolese security forces has led to escalating abuse.
The report found that two-thirds of the human rights violations are committed by armed groups, and government army and security forces are to blame for one-third.
Together, it said the number of violations and abuses occurring in North Kivu province amounts to one-third of all the human rights violations documented throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Human Rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado said civilians are victims of extra-judicial killings, torture, forced labor and other forms of abuse.
She said sexual violence is on the rise, and women and children often are kidnapped for purposes of sexual exploitation. She added that rapes and gang rapes are being committed by all armed groups as a tactic of war.
"In cases where one group thinks that a specific community has been collaborating or likely collaborating with another group, they do rape women and girls there, and explicitly say it is to punish the whole community for their alleged involvement with another group," she told VOA.
Hurtado said internal displacement is soaring as thousands of people flee their homes to escape the violence. And instability in the region, she said, is affecting the emergency response to the Ebola epidemic and the likely spread of the disease.
The authors of the report fear insecurity in North Kivu could undermine the political rights of the population.
Presidential elections in DRC were to have taken place next Sunday but have been postponed to December 30. The U.N. says violence in the province could discourage many people from going to the polls, thereby preventing many from participating in this democratic process.