In a letter delivered today to Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, Human Rights Watch expressed serious concerns about the participation in the investigation of human rights abuses in Zaire, now the DRC, of the Deputy Attorney-General of Zimbabwe, Andrew R. Chigovera.

"As a civil servant of a government that has allied itself with the government under investigation, Mr. Chigovera cannot meet the high standards of impartiality and independence that this investigation warrants," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. The letter called on the Secretary-General to withdraw the mandate from Mr. Chigovera if he does not voluntarily disqualify himself from the mission.

Human Rights Watch also urged the Secretary-General to establish a clearly articulated mandate for the mission and to make it public. According to the letter, this mandate should include explicit authority to:

  • investigate alleged atrocities, including reported massacres, at the following sites that have been identified by our own research and that of other reliable international and nongovernmental organizations: Amisi, Biaro, Inera, Kahundo, Kasese, Katale, Kibumba, Lula, Masisi, Mbandaka (W. Congo), Mpanzi, Mugunga, Sake, Shabunda, Tingi-Tingi, approaching Tongo, Walikale, Wenji (W. Congo), as well as camps near Bukavu, Goma, and Kisangani.
  • establish the identity of the military units and their commanding officers responsible for operations in and around the sites of alleged abuses.
  • determine whether the creation of an international tribunal is warranted.
  • work closely with other relevant agencies of the U.N., including those created by the Commission on Human Rights.
  • issue and make public periodic progress reports at specified intervals and a final report.
  • maintain full-time investigators in the region for as long as necessary to fulfill the mandate.

A copy of the letter is attached.

August 6, 1997
H.E. Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan
United Nations
New York, NY 10017
By Hand
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

We are writing once again to express Human Rights Watch's deep concern about issues related to the investigation of alleged serious human rights violations in eastern Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In a letter addressed to the President of the Security Council on August 1, you informed the Council about your decision to appoint Atsu-Koffi Amega of Togo and Andrew R. Chigovera of Zimbabwe as, respectively, the Chairman and a member of the investigative team. As you no doubt recognize, the investigation must not only be impartial but must be seen to be impartial. In the case of Mr. Chigovera, Deputy Attorney-General of Zimbabwe, there exists a clear conflict of interest which, if not remedied, will cast doubt upon the independence and objectivity of the inquiry. We must therefore oppose the choice of Mr. Chigovera.

The Zimbabwean government, of which Mr. Chigovera remains a senior official, is a close ally of the DRC government. The Zimbabwean government openly defended the DRC in the face of international criticisms of its human rights record and reportedly even supplied it with arms during the recent conflict. As a civil servant of a government that has allied itself with the government under investigation, issued public pronouncements on the matters under investigation, and reportedly made itself complicit in the alleged atrocities at issue by supplying arms to the forces under scrutiny, Mr. Chigovera cannot meet high standards of impartiality and independence that such a serious investigation warrants. If he does not voluntarily disqualify himself from the mission in light of these revelations regarding his government's official positions, we assume that you would withdraw his mandate.

In addition, because of the enormity of the task at hand, we believe it would be advisable to expand the number of team members to five to assure that the investigation proceeds thoroughly in all the regions where abuses are alleged to have occurred. We are sure that you recognize the importance of naming persons whose experience and integrity are such as to ensure that the results of their research will be found credible by the entire international community. The staff that will support the team in the field must also be comprised of human rights professionals with extensive experience investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Given the principle of transparency that you have so often affirmed, we trust that you will soon be making public the mandate under which the team will be functioning. Such publication is essential to provide guidance and support to the team should it encounter any new obstacles posed by the DRC government. It will also enable the international community to clearly assess the DRC government's cooperation with the investigation and to evaluate the success of the team in fulfilling the mandate assigned.

The mandate should include explicit authority to:

  • investigate alleged atrocities, including reported massacres, at the following sites that have been identified by our own research and that of other reliable international and nongovernmental organizations: Amisi, Biaro, Inera, Kahundo, Kasese, Katale, Kibumba, Lula, Masisi, Mbandaka (W. Congo), Mpanzi, Mugunga, Sake, Shabunda, Tingi-Tingi, approaching Tongo, Walikale, Wenji (W. Congo), as well as camps near Bukavu, Goma, and Kisangani.
  • establish the identity of the military units and their commanding officers responsible for operations in and around the sites of alleged abuses.
  • determine whether the creation of an international tribunal is warranted.
  • work closely with other relevant agencies of the U.N., including those created by the Commission on Human Rights.
  • issue and make public periodic progress reports at specified intervals and a final report.
  • maintain full-time investigators in the region for as long as necessary to fulfill the mandate.

Given the great seriousness of the investigation to be undertaken, Human Rights Watch has high expectations that you will complete the nominations to the investigative team and publish its mandate promptly. We attach extraordinary importance to this investigation and will monitor its progress closely.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director Human Rights Watch

Peter Takirambudde
Executive Director
Human Rights Watch/Africa

cc: Members of the Security Council