SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS MASSACRES, HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATIONS IN ZAIRE/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

13 July 1998
SC/6545

SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS MASSACRES, HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATIONS IN ZAIRE/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

13 July 1998

Press ReleaseSC/6545

SECURITY COUNCIL CONDEMNS MASSACRES, HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATIONS IN ZAIRE/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

19980713 The Security Council this evening condemned the massacres, other atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo and especially its eastern provinces, including crimes against humanity.

In a statement read out by its President, Sergey V. Lavrov (Russian Federation), the Council deplored the delay in the administration of justice and called on the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to investigate immediately allegations contained in the report of the Secretary-General's investigative team. It called on the Governments to bring to justice anyone found to have been involved in those crimes.

The Council expressed its readiness to consider additional steps to ensure that the perpetrators of the crimes and atrocities were brought to justice.

Taking note of the stated willingness of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to try any of its nationals implicated in the alleged massacres, the Council urged Member States to cooperate with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in the investigation and prosecution of those persons. It encouraged the Governments concerned to seek international assistance and invited them to consider the inclusion of international observers. The Council also requested the Governments concerned to report to the Secretary-General by 15 October on the steps being taken to investigate those responsible.

In that context, the Council urged Member States, relevant United Nations bodies and other international agencies to provide the necessary technical and other assistance, as requested to the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in the development of independent and impartial judicial systems.

The Council welcomed the decision of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to establish the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events.

The meeting, which was called to order at 10:55 p.m., was adjourned at 11:03 p.m.

Presidential Statement

The full text of the presidential statement, to be issued as document S/PRST/1998/20, reads as follows:

"The Security Council condemns the massacres, other atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law committed in Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo, and especially its eastern provinces, including crimes against humanity and those other violations described in the report of the Secretary-General's Investigative Team (S/1998/581). It notes the responses to the report provided by the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (S/1998/582) and Rwanda (S/1998/583). It recognizes the work of the Investigative Team in documenting some these violations, in spite of the fact that the Team was not allowed to carry out its mission fully and without hindrance.

"The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States of the Great Lakes region.

"The Security Council recognizes the necessity to investigate further the massacres, other atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law and to prosecute those responsible. It deplores the delay in the administration of justice. The Council calls on the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to investigate without delay, in their respective countries, the allegations contained in the report of the Investigative Team and to bring to justice any persons found to have been involved in these or other massacres, atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law. The Council takes note of the stated willingness of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to try any of its nationals who are guilty of or were implicated in the alleged massacres (S/1998/582). Such action is of great importance in helping to bring an end to impunity and to foster lasting peace and stability in the region. It urges Member States to cooperate with the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in the investigation and prosecution of these persons.

"The Council encourages the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda to seek international assistance, such as technical assistance, as needed, in this process. It also invites the governments concerned to consider the inclusion of international observers, as appropriate. It requests the governments concerned to provide an initial progress report to the Secretary-General by 15 October 1998 on the steps being taken to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

"The Security Council expresses its readiness to consider, as necessary in light of actions by the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, additional steps to ensure that the perpetrators of the massacres, other atrocities and violations of international humanitarian law are brought to justice.

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"The Security Council urges Member States, relevant United Nations bodies and agencies and other international agencies to provide the necessary technical and other assistance, as requested, to the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in the development of independent and impartial judicial systems.

"The Security Council expresses support for United Nations and other international activities to reduce ethnic tensions and promote national reconciliation in the region, and encourages the governments concerned to continue to cooperate in these activities to bring about a real improvement in the situation.

"The Security Council attaches great importance to the role of the Organization of African Unity and welcomes its decision to establish the International Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events (S/1998/461). It appeals to Member States to contribute to the Special Trust Fund established to support the work of the Panel.

"The Security Council will remain actively seized of the matter."

Report of Investigative Team of Secretary-General

In its consideration of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Council had before it a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council, dated 29 June, transmitting the report of his investigative team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document S/1998/581).

In introducing the report, the Secretary-General expresses regret that the team was not allowed to carry out its mission fully and without hindrance. In spite of the difficulties, however, the team reached a number of conclusions, two of which stand out: that all parties to the violence that racked Zaire during the period under consideration have committed serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law; and that all the killings by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo and its allies, including elements of the Rwandan Patriotic Army, constitute crimes against humanity, as does the denial of assistance to Rwandan Hutu refugees. Some of the killings may constitute genocide, depending on their intent. The team calls for further investigation of those crimes and their motivation.

The Secretary-General states that one of the root causes of the recent conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa was "a vicious cycle of violations of human rights and revenge, fuelled by impunity". This cycle has to be brought to an end if lasting peace and stability are to be restored to the region. Those guilty of violations must be brought to book; human rights need to be monitored closely whenever they are under threat and the efforts of governments to build national capacities and to promote respect for human rights must be supported.

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He goes on to say that violations of human rights on the scale as reported by the team must be regarded as posing a threat to international peace and security. Full weight must be given to the importance of consolidating the fragile stability in the region, which requires a great deal more international assistance. What is needed is a "consistent policy of critical engagement". Ultimately, however, stability in the region lies with the governments of the region which have an obligation to respect the human rights and security of their own citizens.

The investigative team's report states that the Democratic Republic of the Congo had no intentions of accepting the mission of the team and failed to give its full cooperation. The team was, nevertheless, able to confirm that certain types of violations occurred in certain regions at certain times. The report outlines numerous violations of international humanitarian law and possible crimes against humanity.

The team recommends that the investigation should be continued by an appropriate judicial body or if conditions for completing the investigation with unrestricted access to all relevant sources with the country come about, an investigative commission. In the event that a new investigative body is established, it should focus on massacres occurring during inter-ethnic fighting in North and South Kivu beginning in March 1993; serious violations of human rights allegedly committed within the camps established in Eastern Zaire during the period July 1994 to October 1996; the extent of the participation by the Rwandan Army in the military preparations carried out by the insurgent forces beginning in October 1996; the extent of participation by Rwandan and other foreign troops, in the serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law which occurred during the armed conflict; and the intent underlying the massacre of Rwandan and Zairian Hutus in Zaire beginning in October 1996.

The international community should help the Government of the Congo to establish a judicial institution staffed by competent, independent and properly paid people who will apply internationally recognized rules of procedure. It should also support programmes for the rehabilitation of victims of the war and human rights violations, and programmes to reduce ethnic tensions and promote respect for essential dignity and equal rights for all persons.

Also before the Council is a letter from the Permanent Representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo transmitting a copy of the Government's reply to the allegations contained in the report of the investigative team (document S/1998/582). The Government protests against the failure of the mission to respect the agreed space and time period of the investigation; interference in the internal political affairs of the Congo; failure to respect the cultural values of the region being investiggated; and a deliberate attempt to instigate incidents inimical to the Government.

The Government protests also the violation by the United Nations of the rules governing the confidentiality of the report by certain Powers which gave it wide publicity even before it was officially submitted to them. The report

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was an exact copy of the controversial and partial report of the Special Rapporteur for the former Zaire, which exacerbates the ethnic hatred between the Hutu and Tutsi. It is politically motivated with the object of camouflaging the responsibilities of the Powers implicated in the genocide in Rwanda, specifically France in Operation Turquoise.

The Government goes on to say that the report is an attempt to upset the political stability of the Great Lakes region and the rumours collected after several investigations are too small to be statistically viable.

A letter from the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the Secretary- General, dated 25 June (document S/1998/583), transmits the response of the Government of Rwanda to the report of the investigative team and states that the report is incomplete and inconclusive. The Government of Rwanda regrets that the team decided to seek out testimonies from the same former Rwandan Government soldiers, Interahamwe militia and former Zairian soldiers and their political leaders who fled to some of the neighbouring countries. Those same people were at the root of the tragedies.

The Government's reaction is that the report is significantly biased and bent on non-substantive issues. It states that publication of such an incomplete, biased and totally misleading report does not serve the human rights cause. The Government categorically denies and resents the insinuation that Rwandan Government soldiers committed any human rights violations against a section of its own people. It reserves the right to submit more substantive comments on a better researched and less biased report at an appropriate time.

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For information media. Not an official record.