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UN alarmed by reported new atrocities against displaced civilians in DR Congo

3 February 2012 – The United Nations refugee agency said today it is alarmed by recent reports that displaced people have been tortured and killed in their camps by armed elements in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“Displaced Congolese are constantly threatened by various groups and militias who accuse them of collaborating with one armed group or another,” said Adrian Edwards, the spokesperson in Geneva of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency reported that since the last quarter of 2011, armed groups have been intruding on camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu province, violating their civilian character.

The main affected camps are in Nyanzale, Mweso and Birambizo in the Masisi territory, about 90 kilometres north-west of the provincial capital of Goma.

Mr. Edwards said that seven IDPs were beaten to death on 13 December because they had refused to take part in forced labour imposed by the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR). UNHCR has also received reports of IDPs being tortured, he added.

The ongoing violence is also hindering humanitarian access to the camps and preventing aid workers from protecting and assisting the displaced people. Currently, only eight IDP camps out of 31 are accessible to humanitarian workers without military escort, said Mr. Edwards.

“UNHCR calls on all parties to respect the civilian character of IDP sites in North Kivu. We are appealing to provincial authorities to increase security in and around the camps,” he stated.

The agency is also liaising with the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, known as MONUSCO, to increase the presence of security forces in areas most in need of protection and to ensure the safety of civilians living in the IDP sites.

There are almost 79,000 displaced Congolese currently living in 31 IDP camps in North Kivu. Many of them cannot go home due to continued insecurity and renewed fighting between armed groups and the military in their villages.

North Kivu is home to more than 600,000 IDPs, over one third of the 1.7 million displaced across the country.

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