17 May 2007 Though it has interviewed some 200 victims and witnesses of the post-election clashes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations mission there said today that Government cooperation with investigators has been tepid and many witnesses have been intimidated.
The April human rights report by the UN Mission in the country (known as MONUC), says that, despite those obstacles, its special investigations team plans to conclude this month its probe into the March violence in the capital, Kinshasa, where hundreds were killed during fighting between Government forces and the guards of unsuccessful presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba.
“The team’s work suffered from the refusal of the authorities to grant access to some important locations, such as the compound of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba and some military camps,” the report said.
“Numerous incidents of intimidation by the intelligence services, police and military in the wake of the violence have also discouraged victims, witnesses, hospitals and medical centres staff and authorities from coming forward or speaking freely with the team,” it added.
The Mission also found that police officers were involved in a large number of serious human rights violations, especially in the eastern Kasaï Province. Government troops were also found to have summarily executed civilians and to have engaged in other egregious human rights abuses.
It said that members of other armed groups have continued to commit human rights abuses on the populations of North and South Kivu. In particular, reports of attacks by armed Rwandan Hutu militias on villages in area continued throughout the period in review, including allegations of executions, abductions and looting.
Also in the Kivus, Mayi-Mayi militias were accused of multiple rapes, mutilations and killings, including the burning alive of three villagers in retaliation for the death of one of their number at the hands of Government forces.
Yesterday, the UN Security Council extended the deployment of MONUC to help the DRC consolidate security in the wake of recent violence which follows the end of a six-year civil war, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II.