Statement of the High Commissioner to the Interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 35th session of the Human Rights Council
20 June 2017
Just three months ago, my Office reported to this Council serious concerns about the human rights violations and abuses committed by the Congolese army and police, and the Kamuina Nsapu militia, in Kasai, Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental. Subsequently, when the two UN experts were killed, the Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo called for a joint investigation to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses to justice.
Since then the humanitarian and human rights situation has deteriorated dramatically and various actors are fuelling ethnic hatred, resulting in extremely grave, widespread and apparently planned attacks against the civilian population in the Kasais. Last week, given the gravity of the allegations received and restricted access to parts of the greater Kasai area, and in line with my statement to this Council on 6 June, I deployed a team of OHCHR investigators to interview recent refugees from the Kasais.
Their reports are harrowing, and indicate the situation in the Kasais has not only escalated but has also become much more complex.
I am appalled by the creation and arming of a militia, the Bana Mura – allegedly to support the authorities in fighting the Kamuina Nsapu, but which has carried out horrific attacks against civilians from the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups. Refugees from multiple villages in the Kamonya territory indicated that the Bana Mura have in the past two months shot dead, hacked or burned to death, and mutilated, hundreds of villagers, as well as destroying entire villages. My team saw children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns. One two-month-old baby seen by my team had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth; the mother was also wounded. At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.
In the village of Cinq, dozens of men, women and children of the Luba and Lulua communities were reportedly killed with firearms or machetes, or burnt to death, on 24 April. Hundreds of assailants also allegedly attacked the main health centre in the village and killed some 90 patients, medical personnel and others. The Bana Mura militia in Cinq was reportedly organised by a well-known local leader, who provided machetes, hunting rifles and fuel. Similar attacks appear to have occurred in more than 20 villages in Kamonya over the past two months, and numerous victims and witnesses said the militia is organised and armed by local authorities.
Victims also reported that members of local units of the Congolese army and police, as well as some traditional chiefs, have accompanied some Bana Mura attacks, and said some State agents are involved in arming and directing the militia.
Serious human rights violations by members of the security forces themselves -- including summary executions and rape – have been reported during several operations against villages allegedly controlled by the Kamuina Nsapu militia.
In recent months my Office has reported serious abuses committed by the Kamuina Nsapu militia. This has been further documented by my staff and other very credible sources. In several villages in Kamonya, Kamuina Nsapu has allegedly carried out targeted killings, including members of the armed forces, police, public officials and civilians perceived to cooperate with them, as well as alleged sorcerers. Witnesses indicated that the Kamuina Nsapu militia comprises many children, some as young as seven, many of them under the influence of drugs.
Some 1.3 million internally displaced people have fled this landscape of horror. I condemn, unreservedly, the multiple violations they have experienced, and deplore the lack of international attention to their situation. Over 30,000 refugees have been registered in Angola, and hundreds of refugees are currently arriving every week, indicating that atrocities have not abated. I take this opportunity to thank the authorities for their assistance, in particular, Angolan doctors and nurses who have worked many long hours to save gravely injured people from death.
Forty-two mass graves have been documented by the Joint Human Rights Office in the Kasais. There may be more. Several refugees have told my staff they were forced to bury victims in additional mass graves. We believe these grave sites were being investigated by the UN experts killed in March 2017. Their killings must also be fully investigated, and I remain in close touch with their families.
It is the duty of the Congolese authorities, army and police to protect the people, to act in accordance with human rights principles and to bring perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses to justice. Accountability for these shocking incidents must be assured. I regret that to date the Congolese Government has not fulfilled these obligations of protection and accountability. Although my Office has shared information and offered support to investigations in line with the Government’s call for a joint investigation, the authorities then sought to limit the UN and AU to a supporting role. As a result, progress has clearly been insufficient in view of the massive scale and horrific nature of the crimes that have taken place and, sadly, continue.
In other parts of the country, there has been some progress towards bringing a number of perpetrators to account. However, that political will has not been manifest in the Kasais. Moreover, not one person has been held accountable for the killings of dozens of people during demonstrations in Kinshasa and across the country last September and December. The DRC cannot be permitted to become a free-fire zone, where members of the security forces, armed groups and militias can kill with impunity. May I recall that last year, of more than 5,190 human rights violations and abuses recorded, 64% were committed by the Congolese army and police. Several FARDC officers active in the Kasais were suspected of involvement in previous massacres committed in eastern DRC from 1998 to 2013.
I urge this Council to deploy an independent international investigation on the human rights situation in the Kasais, in cooperation with the authorities, my Office and other parts of the UN system. I will also remain in touch with the International Criminal Court. This international investigation can establish the facts and determine individual responsibilities.
This will also send a strong signal about the need to uphold human rights in the rest of the country, where lack of progress in implementing the 31 December Agreement, and continued restrictions on political rights and freedoms, are generating frustration and deepening grievances. By bringing justice to the Kasais we may be able to prevent further crimes elsewhere in the DRC.
I take this occasion to repeat the full availability of my Office to assist the Government and my utmost support to the people of the DRC, especially victims of human rights violations and abuses.
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