December 11, 2008

III. Abuses committed by the CNDP

Summary Executions

Once back in control of Kiwanja, CNDP combatants went house to house, searching for young men and teenage boys whom they suspected of being Mai Mai combatants. They targeted several neighborhoods, such as Buhunda, Buzito, Buturande, Mabungo, Nyongera, and Kachemu, possibly because some of the heaviest fighting had taken place in those areas.

Based on more than 100 interviews with family members, those who helped bury the dead, and other Kiwanja residents, Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 150 people were killed on November 4 and 5 in Kiwanja. Most victims had bullet wounds to the head or wounds caused by machete, spear or club, indicating they had been summarily executed rather than killed in the cross fire or by rocket and mortar shells. At least 14 of the victims were children, 8 were women, and 7 were elderly.[11]   

International humanitarian law prohibits the summary execution or mistreatment of any person in custody, whether civilians or captured combatants.[12] When committed deliberately or recklessly, such acts are war crimes.

According to witnesses, CNDP soldiers forced doors open, demanded money and cell phones and then shot or otherwise killed the men or boys whom they found. They slaughtered them in front of their families in their houses, just outside their homes, or in the street nearby. Some women were killed, including those who tried to protect other family members.

One woman whose husband was killed told a Human Rights Watch researcher what happened. She said:

On Wednesday [November 5], 10 CNDP soldiers showed up outside my house in Mabungo neighborhood. My husband didn't see them, and he tried to leave the adjacent kitchen to reach me in the main house. But as soon as he stepped outside, the soldiers shot at him – once in the eye and once in the stomach. All of his insides came out. My husband was a farmer. He was 50 years old, and he never helped the Mai Mai. We had no weapons.[13]

Another elderly woman described other killings. She said:

I fled to a nearby house to hide when I saw the soldiers coming. In the house there were seven boys. Some of them had leaves on their heads [as Mai Mai often did], but they had no weapons. The soldiers demanded that the boys open the door, but they were scared and did not answer. I ran into the bedroom and curled up into a small ball under the bed. I heard the soldiers break down the door and then the screams of the boys as they shot them. They did not try to arrest them, they just shot – bam, bam, bam. The soldiers came into the bedroom. I was trembling all over. One of the soldiers grabbed my leg and pulled me from under the bed. He raised his gun to shoot me, but another said to leave me as I was just an old woman. When they left, I went into the other room and saw the bodies of all the young boys. Four of them were brothers. They were all dead.[14]

In another case, CNDP combatants killed an elderly couple when the wife tried to leave her house to go to the toilet. The neighbor, who saw the killings, said:

I could not flee Kiwanja after the CNDP told everyone to leave because my wife was pregnant. I live close to where the CNDP had their camp, and I heard them say anyone leaving their house was suspect and that anyone poking their head out of a window should be shot. After a day hiding in our houses, I heard my neighbor say she had desperately to go to the toilet and she left her house. A soldier asked her where she was going, and when she told him she was going to the toilet, he shot her. Then her husband opened the door to see what had happened and they shot him dead as well. They were both about 60 years old. They were not Mai Mai. They were just an old couple who could not run away. I later helped to bury them.[15]

According to several witnesses, CNDP combatants dragged bodies of those killed in the street into houses and then locked the doors, in an apparent attempt to hide the dead.[16] Witnesses also told Human Rights Watch researchers that bodies were found in latrines.[17]

Bosco Ntaganda, the military chief of staff of the CNDP, was in charge of military operations on the Rutshuru and Kiwanja axis at the time of the killings.  He was filmed in Kiwanja on November 5, the day of the massacre. Ntaganda is wanted on an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for war crimes committed in Ituri between 2002 and 2004.[18]

After the mass killings on November 5, CNDP combatants continued to summarily execute Kiwanja residents. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch researchers that CNDP combatants killed six persons between November 8 and November 16.[19] Most victims were shot to death while going to their farms outside Kiwanja to look for something to eat, or while returning to their homes in Kiwanja after spending days sheltering outside the MONUC base. Another four people were summarily executed in early December just outside Rutshuru, plus one other in Kiwanja, all by CNDP soldiers.[20]

Sexual Violence

As is often the case during combat in eastern Congo, women and girls were targets of sexual violence. CNDP combatants raped at least 16 women and girls in their homes, on their farms or on the roads in the weeks following the CNDP's takeover of Kiwanja and Rutshuru.[21]

A 16-year-old girl who was raped by a CNDP combatant, said: 

The day the CNDP arrived in Rutshuru, they pillaged my neighborhood and shot and killed two boys, so I decided to flee to Goma. I ran through the farms on the edge of Rutshuru and met two Tutsi[22] soldiers with guns and spears. They stopped me in the farm. I was alone. One of the soldiers spoke Kinyarwanda, and the other spoke Swahili. They said, "We're going to kill you." Then they put a knife on my arm. I said, "No, please spare me." Then they said, "The only way we can spare you is if we rape you." They cut my clothes off with the knife. One of the soldiers raped me from 4 pm until 7 pm. There was blood everywhere. Then when the second soldier wanted to start, there were lots of gunshots nearby and they left, saying that if I fled they would kill me. After that, I managed to escape and made it to Kibati [a large camp for displaced people outside Goma]. I'm still in a lot of pain, but I don't have any medicine and there's no one here to treat me.[23]

Displaced people and a health center employee told Human Rights Watch researchers that CNDP soldiers raped six women and girls inside the camp for displaced people at the MONUC base in Kiwanja on November 27.[24]

Forced recruitment and abduction of adults and children

All parties to the conflict in North Kivu have forcibly recruited civilians, including children, and forced them to serve as soldiers. These children have been sent to the frontlines or are used as porters, guards, or sex slaves. According to child protection workers, many of those recently recruited are "re-recruits" who have already gone through demobilization programs but who received limited support to integrate back into their communities. [25]

Following their takeover of Rutshuru and Kiwanja, the CNDP forcibly recruited dozens of young men and boys into military service. Other men and boys, often accused of being Mai Mai sympathizers, were abducted by the CNDP and have not been seen since.[26]

On November 30, for example, CNDP combatants abducted four children, all brothers, at 3 a.m. in the Mabungo neighborhood of Kiwanja. They took the boys to an unknown location. The next day, they brought back one child who was ill but kept the three who were healthy.[27]

Local residents told Human Rights Watch researchers that the CNDP uses local authorities to forcibly recruit young men and boys into military service.[28] According to MONUC officials, they intervened in several cases to obtain the release of boys and men recruited by force by the CNDP.[29]

Continuing fear of recruitment keeps many local residents from resuming the usual activities of daily life. Men and young boys often hide in their homes instead of working in the fields or spend their nights outside the MONUC base in Kiwanja to avoid being pressed into military service. Many others have fled to Goma or other areas outside of CNDP control.[30]

International humanitarian law prohibits all parties to an armed conflict from arbitrarily depriving any person of their liberty, including through abductions and forced recruitment. Parties must treat all civilians humanely-arbitrary deprivation of liberty is incompatible with this requirement.[31] International law prohibits any recruitment of children under the age of 18 by non-state armed groups or the participation of children in active hostilities. The recruitment of children under the age of 15 is a war crime.[32]

 

Destruction of camps and forced return

Before the CNDP takeover of the area, some 27,000 displaced people were registered in camps for displaced people and in unofficial sites, such as schools, churches or mosques in and around Rutshuru and Kiwanja. More than 25,000 other displaced people were living with host families.[33] Many of these displaced people fled the area ahead of the CNDP advance.

On October 29, CNDP officials said in a public meeting that they would not permit displaced people's camps in their territory, that all displaced people must return home, and that the camps would be destroyed.[34] CNDP combatants went directly to the Kasasa and Nyongera camps and instructed Kiwanja residents to dismantle them and keep the spoils (plastic sheeting, wooden frames and any belongings left behind by the displaced people).[35] According to witnesses, CNDP combatants either participated in the destruction or stood by and watched.[36] Some witnesses said that CNDP forces burned shelters at Nyongera, Kasasa, and at camps and other sites in Rutshuru where many shelters were made of grass.[37] Satellite images of the Rutshuru and Kiwanja area taken on November 4 confirm the total destruction of the camps.[38]

One man who lived at Nyongera camp in Kiwanja told a Human Rights Watch researcher what happened. He said:

I decided not to run when the CNDP came as I did not know where to run to. There were only a few us left in the camp and then the CNDP soldiers surrounded the area. They told the local people to help them destroy the camp. I heard it myself. The soldiers started some fires. I didn't know what to do. Where were we supposed to go? We decided to seek shelter at a school but I didn't feel safe there so we moved to the area outside the MONUC base. We were there for days with nothing, sleeping out in the open. I feel like we are no better than animals who are herded from one place to another.[39]

CNDP soldiers and officials used threats and intimidation to attempt to force displaced people to return home, even though many did not believe it was safe to do so. On November 9, CNDP leader Laurent Nkunda at a public rally at Rutshuru stadium told his audience that he did not want any camps in areas under his control because they could provide hiding places for bandits.[40] According to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch researchers, CNDP combatants and local authorities told the people at the make-shift camp outside the MONUC base in Kiwanja to leave on at least three occasions between November 6 and 11. They declared that CNDP was in control and that they would not be protected by either the government or MONUC at the site.[41] During one of those meetings on November 11, the Chef de Cité made good on his threats by destroying two shelters with a machete. The CNDP gave the displaced people until 10 am the next day to return to their homes, warning that they would feel the CNDP's "pressure" if they did not comply.[42] The next day almost all of the displaced people had abandoned the camp.

But many had no place to go and within days thousands had returned to the MONUC base. By November 30, some 12,000 people were at the base, many of whom had received little, if any, assistance.[43]

International humanitarian law prohibits the destruction of civilian objects, such as homes and shelters, schools and religious centers, unless and only for such time as they are being used for military purposes.[44]

CNDP Response

In a November 19 press release reporting its own inquiries, and in subsequent interviews with Human Rights Watch researchers, CNDP authorities "categorically refute" any allegations that their soldiers summarily executed or killed civilians in Kiwanja. They say that those who made such claims were "guided by emotions rather than truth."[45] The CNDP says further that all those killed by its soldiers were "combatants" and that all other victims were "liquidated by the militias and the FARDC" or they were "simply and sadly in the wrong place at the wrong time."[46] They further contend that all of those killed were men, with the exception of one woman.[47] International humanitarian law prohibits the killing or inhumane treatment of any person within the control of a party to the conflict, including enemy combatants.[48] 

The CNDP told Human Rights Watch researchers that Mai Mai militias had killed the many persons whose bodies were found in Kiwanja and that attributing blame to the CNDP was an effort to "tarnish" its image.[49] As proof that North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku had participated in this effort, they said he had reported the killings by the CNDP on November 4, when they had temporarily lost control of the town to the Mai Mai.[50] Human Rights Watch researchers found the date cited in this instance to be wrong (the governor made his report on November 6), as were other dates provided by the CNDP in its chronology of events.[51]  

The newly appointed CNDP territorial administrator, Simpenzwe, denied that displaced people had been forced to leave the camps, claiming that they had been in the camps only because the government had forced them to live there. Other senior CNDP officials told Human Rights Watch researchers that local people had "spontaneously" destroyed the camps.[52]

11 Human Rights Watch interviews in Goma, Kibati, and Kiwanja, November and December 2008.

[12]See article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949; Protocol II, art. 4.

[13]Human Rights Watch interview with witness, Kiwanja, November 30, 2008.

[14]Human Rights Watch interview with witness, Kiwanja, November 30, 2008.

[15]Human Rights Watch interview with witness, Kiwanja, November 29, 2008.

[16] Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja residents, Goma, November 27, 2008.

[17]Human Rights Watch interviews with internally displaced people from Kiwanja in Goma, November 11, 2008, and in Goma and Kibati, November 27, 2008.

[18]Human Rights Watch interview with foreign journalist, Goma, November 21, 2008. Footage on file with Human Rights Watch.

[19]Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja residents in  Kibati, November 11, 24 and 25; Human Rights Watch interviews with NGO representatives from Kiwanja, Goma, November 13 and 22, 2008; official MONUC communication to Laurent Nkunda, November 18, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[20]Human Rights Watch phone interviews with Rutshuru and Kiwanja residents and NGO representatives, Goma, December 7, 8 and 9, 2008.

[21]Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja and Rutshuru residents, in Kibati, November 11, 24, and 25, 2008; in Kiwanja, November 29 and 30, 2008; and in Goma, December 8, 2008.

[22]Although all CNDP combatants do not belong to the Tutsi ethnic group, and some Congolese army soldiers are Tutsi, North Kivu residents often refer to CNDP combatants as "Tutsi soldiers".

[23]Human Rights Watch interview with victim, Kibati, November 25, 2008.

[24]Human Rights Watch interview with displaced people and health center employee, Kiwanja, November 29, 2008 and December 8, 2008.

[25]Human Rights Watch interviews with child protection workers, Goma, November 5, 2008 and December 8, 2008.

[26]Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja residents, in Goma, Kibati, and Kiwanja, November 2008; Human Rights Watch interviews with child protection worker, Goma, December 8, 2008.

[27]Human Rights Watch interview with child protection worker, Goma, December 8, 2008.

[28]Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja and Rutshuru residents, Kiwanja, November 30, 2008.

[29]Human Rights Watch interview with MONUC official, November 29, 2008.

[30]Human Rights Watch interviews with Rutshuru and Kiwanja residents and internally displaced people, Goma, Kibati and Kiwanja, November 2008.

[31]See article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions; see also ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 99 and accompanying text.

[32]The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, adopted May 25, 2000. G.A. Res. 54/263, Annex I, 54 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 7, U.N. Doc. A/54/49, Vol. III, entered into force February 12, 2002. The protocol raised the standards set in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by establishing 18 as the minimum age for any conscription or forced recruitment or direct participation in hostilities. Article 4 states that "armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a state should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities persons under the age of eighteen."

[33]In October 2008, UNHCR managed six official camps for displaced people in and around Rutshuru and Kiwanja with the following camp populations: Dumez (2,855), Ngwenda (3,123), Kasasa (5,143), Nyongera (3,447), Kinyandoni Anglican camp (5,317), Kinyandoni Catholic camp (3,244). UNHCR Statistics on file with Human Rights Watch. UN OCHA had registered an additional 3,345 IDPs living in unofficial public sites (2,190 in Rutshuru and 1,225 in Kiwanja). UNHCR estimates that the total number of IDPs living in unofficial sites was much higher, nearly 25,000, though these are only estimates. In August 2008, UN OCHA had registered 25,300 displaced people living in host families in the towns of Kiwanja and Rutshuru (12,850 in Kiwanja and 12,450 in Rutshuru). Tens of thousands of others were living in host families in neighboring villages. It is unclear how many of the displaced people living in host families fled after the CNDP's takeover of the area. Human Rights Watch interview with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Goma, December 4, 2008; UNHCR Briefing Note, October 31, 2008, http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/PANA-7KXHVY?OpenDocument; Human Rights Watch interviews with UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Goma, November 6, 2008 and December 9, 2008.

[34] Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja and Rutshuru residents and displaced people in Goma, November 6 and 7, 2008; in Kiwanja, November 29, 2008; and in Kibati, November 25, 2008.

[35]Human Rights Watch interview with witnesses, in Kiwanja, November 29; in Kibati, November 25; and in Goma, November 6 and 7, 2008.

[36] Human Rights Watch interviews with internally displaced people, Kiwanja, November 29, 2008. UNHCR interviewed CNDP officials in Rutshuru on November 4 who confirmed that they had invited local residents to dismantle the camps.

[37]Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses, Goma, Kibati and Kiwanja, November 6, 8, 24, 25, 29 and 30, 2008.

[38]See Annex.

[39]Human Rights Watch interview with displaced person from Nyongera camp, Kiwanja, November 29, 2008.

[40]Human Rights Watch interviews with Kiwanja and Rutshuru residents who were at the rally, Kiwanja, November 29 and 30, 2008.

[41]Human Rights Watch interviews with internally displaced people in Kibati, November 24 and 25, 2008; and in Kiwanja, November 26, 29 and 30, 2008.

[42]Human Rights Watch interview with Kiwanja NGO staff, Goma, November 13, 2008.

43 On November 30 the camp had only nine latrines and one water point. No food distribution had taken place for two weeks.

[44]See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, rule 10.

[45]Human Rights Watch interview with Jules Simpenzwe, CNDP Administrator for Rutshuru, Novermber 26 and with other CNDP officials, Rutshuru, November 30, 2008. Congrès National Pour La Défense du Peuple, "Communiqué de Presse sur les 'Massacres' à Kiwanja," Bwiza, November 19, 2008.

[46]Ibid.

[47]Congrès National Pour La Défense du Peuple, "Communiqué de Presse sur les 'Massacres' à Kiwanja," Bwiza, November 19, 2008.

[48]Common article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions provides that "[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely" and shall not be subject to "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture."  See also, Protocol II, art. 4,

[49]Human Rights Watch interview with CNDP leaders, Rutshuru, November 30, 2008. Congrès National Pour La Défense du Peuple, "Communiqué de Presse sur les 'Massacres' à Kiwanja," Bwiza, November 19, 2008.

[50] Ibid.

[51]Human Rights Watch interviews with UN officials, Goma, December 2 and 5, 2008. Transcript of Governor Julien Paluku's November 6 statement on Radio Okapi on killings in Kiwanja on file with Human Rights Watch.

[52]Human Rights Watch interview with CNDP leaders, Rutshuru, November 30, 2008.