Wednesday, January 15, 2003

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 15 (UPI) — U.N. Security Council members Wednesday “condemned in the strongest terms” recent human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following U.N. confirmation of systematic looting, rape, massacre and cannibalism in northeast Congo by the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo and the Congolese Rally for Democracy/national troops.

Security Council President Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the French ambassador to the United Nations, read to reporters a lengthy and toughly worded statement authorized by council members calling on all Congolese parties to implement “without delay” the Dec. 17 Pretoria, South Africa, agreement to establish a transitional government to lead to national elections.

“They stressed the need for early action to resolve the key outstanding issues, especially the question of security for all parties in (the DRC capital of) Kinshasa, and stressed the importance of adopting the Pretoria agreement in the framework of the inter-Congolese dialogue as soon as possible,” he said.

“The members of the council expressed their deep concern at the resumption of fighting in eastern Congo and the continuation of instability in the north-east of the country,” the statement said, adding that they “condemned in the strongest terms the massacres and systematic violations of human rights perpetrated by the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (known as the MLC) and the Congolese Rally for Democracy/national troops (known as RCD-N) in the Ituri area.

“Jean-Pierre Bemba, as the leader of the MLC, bears the responsibility for the security of civilian populations in the territory under his control,” the council statement said. “The members of the council demanded that Bemba ensure that these massacres and violations of human rights cease immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Members of the council took note of his commitments to take action and said they would continue to monitor the situation through the U.N. Mission in the Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Geneva.

A U.N. investigation confirmed reports of the human rights abuses.

According to MONUC, corroborating testimony revealed “systematic looting and rape” as well as summary executions and abductions used as weapons of war by soldiers of the MLC and the RCD-N during their occupation of Mambasa territory in the latter part of last year.

The U.N. team, dispatched late last month to investigate reports of human rights abuses, interviewed 368 victims and witnesses during two weeks spent in Mangina and Oicha villages, where tens of thousands of displaced people found refuge.

Along with the abuses confirmed in those villages and others on the main road between Mambasa and Mangina, the investigators also verified that among the people executed, mutilated and cannibalized by the MLC and RCD-N military forces, there were members of the Pygmies’ community forced to leave the bush.

The United Nations continues to receive testimony from the thousands displaced in Oicha and Butembo, MONUC said.

The exact number of victims has not been determined, investigators said.

In the council statement, panel members “stressed the particular need for all parties claiming a role in the future of the Congo to demonstrate their respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, and the security and well-being of civilian populations in areas under their control.”

Council members stressed the importance of full implementation of accords by the governments of both Rwanda and the Congo, de La Sabliere said.

The members pointed to the two nations’ commitments under the July 30 Pretoria accord and encouraged further efforts by MONUC and the Third Party Verification Mechanism to continue to verify implementation of the commitments, in particular the full withdrawal of Rwandan forces and for the absence of all forms of support to the foreign armed groups by the Kinshasa government.

Council members also expressed concern at reports of continuing sponsorship of proxy groups in the Congo, calling on both sides to cooperate fully with the verification efforts of MONUC and the Third Party Verification Mechanism.

The river-laced Congo is the size of Western Europe.

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