DR of Congo: New UN report documents abuses by police and army troops

11 May 2006 – Although large-scale human rights violations decreased in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from April to December 2005 compared with 2004, there was an increase in individual cases of summary executions, torture, rape and other serious abuses by police and army troops, according to the latest United Nations update on the issue.

In a set of recommendations, the Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) called on the Transitional Government to demonstrate zero tolerance for violations by the military and end impunity for officers who order, commit or condone abuses in the army’s drive against rebel groups and armed militias.

“FARDC military operations against armed groups have sadly taken their toll on the civilian population as human rights violations have escalated in those areas where such operations are under way,” the Mission said, referring to the army by its acronym.

“MONUC's Human Rights Division has documented arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, torture and other serious human rights violations against civilians suspected of being Ituri militiamen, Mayi Mayi combatants - this is the case of North and Central Katanga - or FDLR in the Kivus,” it added, referring to various provincial rebel groups.

Routine use of physical violence against civilians by members of the security forces was reported wherever army and police were deployed, it noted. Threats, beatings and arrests were usually motivated by attempts to obtain money, goods, livestock or mined products from civilians.

“High number of rapes and other incidents of sexual violence against women and girls continued to be reported throughout the DRC, the main perpetrators being the army and police officers,” MONUC said.

The Mission, established by the Security Council in 1999, is at present fielding nearly 17,000 uniformed personnel on the ground as the vast country prepares to hold elections slated for July to cement its transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and the attendant humanitarian catastrophe – the most lethal conflict on Earth since World War II.

The electoral process got underway with fairly smooth registration of voters and the holding of the constitutional referendum, but there were incidents repressing civil liberties in the pre-electoral period and freedom of expression came under attack. MONUC noted.

The number of journalists arrested, threatened and beaten increased, while press freedom was often muffled by the authorities. MONUC investigated a number of killings that are possible extrajudicial executions; the victims include a journalist, a human rights defender and a member of the political opposition.

Small steps were made in the fight against impunity with the arrest of several Ituri warlords, but some warlords continued to enjoy protection and de facto immunity from prosecution, the Mission said.

Political interference hampered some military judicial investigations into serious incidents such as massacres committed in Katanga and in North Kivu. Both the military and civilian justice system continue to remain in a state of near collapse and for the vast majority of Congolese justice remains beyond reach, it added.

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