Killings shock UN rights chief

January 29, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Africa | Leave a comment
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The UN human rights chief on Tuesday said she was alarmed at “grotesque” abuse by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo after reports that they killed hundreds of civilians in revenge attacks.

Navi Pillay’s office said in a statement that initial UN investigations suggested Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels had killed hundreds in the northern Orientale province “in retaliation” for a joint cross-border operation launched by government troops from Uganda and Sudan last month.

“The Lord’s Resistance Army is also accused of conducting large-scale kidnappings and rape, as well as forced recruitment of minors,” it added.

Her office said in a statement that Pillay expressed “deep consternation” at “a continuous stream of gross human rights abuses committed by the LRA” as well as the danger to civilians from the offensive.

“The violations committed by the LRA are grotesque,” said Pillay.

“I’m also concerned that the joint military counter-operations, unless properly planned and executed, could lead to further human rights abuses being perpetrated against the civilian population who are, in effect, caught between the conflicting parties,” she added.

Pillay also voiced concern about the two other conflicts ravaging the eastern DRC.

In North Kivu province, the UN rights chief underlined that Congolese and Rwandan government forces must make protection of civilians the top priority of their operation against Hutu rebels.

“I am particularly concerned by reports that the Congolese-Rwandan operation to flush out FDLR-rebels has already impacted negatively on the ability of (United Nations) peacekeepers, as well as… humanitarian organisations, to protect and assist the civilian population in some areas,” Pillay said.

She accused the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) of being responsible for “massive human rights abuses against civilians over the past 14 years”.

But at the same time, Pillay welcomed calls for reconciliation with Tutsi rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).

But there must be accountability for alleged massacres, she added.

“Members of the CNDP are accused of authorising or committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, along with the leaders of a number of other groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Pillay.

“There should never be impunity for crimes of this gravity.”

CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda was arrested by Rwandan forces on Thursday.


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