KINSHASA/GENEVA (29 August 2012) – The UN
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, Roger Meece,
expressed deep concern today over reports of further massacres of civilians
in Masisi territory, North Kivu at the beginning of August - the latest
in a series of violent attacks by armed groups systematically targeting
the civilian population.
“The deterioration of the overall security
situation in North Kivu following the M23 mutiny and related ruthless attacks
against civilians is extremely alarming,” said Special Representative
for the Secretary-General (SRSG) Meece.
Through four missions to the remote affected
area and dozens of interviews with victims and witnesses, the UN Joint
Human Rights Office in DRC (UNJHRO)* has documented since May more than
45 attacks on some 30 villages and towns in the Ufamandu I and II areas
in Masisi territory. Some of the attacks have been carried out by the armed
group Raïa Mutomboki and others by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation
of Rwanda (FDLR), at times in coalition with the armed group Nyatura. This
has resulted in serious human rights violations including civilian massacres
and the destruction and looting of homes and property, as well as the mass
displacement of thousands of civilians.
“Allegations of hundreds of killings are
still being verified,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Navi Pillay. “However, the preliminary findings suggest that a significant
number of people – most of them women and children – were slaughtered.
The sheer viciousness of these murders is beyond comprehension. In some
cases, the attacks against civilians may constitute crimes against humanity.”
The attacks on villages by Raïa Mutomboki
and FDLR occur in the context of an increase in security vacuums exacerbated
by army desertions in April, the subsequent creation of the M23 armed group
and the redeployment of Congolese Army (FARDC) units to contain it. Many
armed groups have also taken advantage of this situation to expand their
own area of influence, often carrying out brutal attacks against civilians
in the process.
Proclaiming to protect local populations
against the predominantly Hutu FDLR, the Raïa Mutomboki are targeting civilians
of Hutu ethnicity whom they consider to be foreigners and allies of the
FDLR. In turn, the FDLR retaliate against civilian populations they believe
to be associated with the Raïa Mutomboki.
Taking stock of this situation, the High
Commissioner called on all armed groups to immediately cease attacks against
civilians and noted the possible consequences for those responsible for
such attacks, referring to the recent sentencing by the International Criminal
Court of former rebel leader Thomas Lubanga. SRSG Meece in turn noted with
grave concern that the M23 mutiny had required MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization
Mission in the DRC) and FARDC (Forces armées de la République Démocratique
du Congo) to divert resources away from some areas, while underscoring
MONUSCO’s recent civilian protection activity in localities most affected
by Raïa Mutomboki and FDLR. In addition, the SRSG was encouraged by a recent
commitment from the Congolese authorities to deploy troops to these areas
and reiterated the priority the Mission accords to civilian protection.
* The UN Joint Human Rights Office, which
was established in February 2008, comprises the Human Rights Division of
the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC.
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