In a letter delivered today to the office of the Secretary General Kofi Annan, Human Rights Watch expressed grave concern about the new conditions on the United Nations investigative team in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to diplomatic sources, the investigative team in Kinshasa received a letter yesterday signed by Conogolese Minister of Reconstruction Etienne-Richard Mbaya and Minister of International Cooperation Thomas Kanza imposing three new conditions. In light of these latest demands imposed by the Congolese government Executive Director Kenneth Roth said, "We believe that the time has come to stop making concessions in the face of this obstructionism." Instead of further delays, full cooperation with the U.N. investigative team should be insisted upon. Any attempt at negotiation would only embolden the government. If the stonewalling continues, Human Rights Watch urges the Secretary General to bring the matter to the attention of the Security Council and seek the imposition of firm sanctions.

The full text of the letter follows.

August 28, 1997

H.E. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
United Nations Headquarters
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

Human Rights Watch is gravely concerned about the most recent obstacles imposed by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the United Nations investigative team in that country. According to diplomatic sources, the Congolese government delivered to the team in Kinshasa yesterday a letter addressed to you and signed by Congolese Minister of Reconstruction Etienne-Richard Mbaya and Minister of International Cooperation Thomas Kanza. We understand the letter to have imposed three new conditions on the team's investigation:

  • It insisted on the replacement of the team's Togolese chairman, Mr. Atsu-Koffi Amega, by someone from a neutral country--an apparent allusion to Togo's close relationship with the prior Zairean government of former President Mobutu Sese Seko.
  • It insisted that the team's investigators not be accompanied by their unarmed U.N. security personnel.
  • It insisted that the U.N. investigation be conducted in conjunction with a proposed parallel investigation by the Organization of African Unity.

As you know, Human Rights Watch strongly objected to your initial decision to acquiesce in the Congolese government's objection to the participation of U.N. Special Rapporteur Roberto Garretón in the investigation of atrocities in Congo/Zaire. Our principal reason was that it set a terrible precedent of allowing a government under investigation for human rights abuses to play a role in selecting its investigator. Unfortunately, the Congolese government seems to have learned that lesson all too well, and is in the process of transferring it to other aspects of the investigation which should be of no legitimate concern to it. Indeed, the Congolese government's steady stream of objections to various aspects of the investigation suggests a determination to block any inquiry into the alleged acts of mass murder or to delay the inquiry sufficiently so that evidence of atrocities can be destroyed.

We believe that the time has come to stop making concessions in the face of this obstructionism. Your firm and immediate response to yesterday's insult is essential. We call on you to reject unequivocally these latest demands of the Congolese government and any new ones that it might impose, and to insist on its immediate and full cooperation with the U.N. investigative team. Any attempt at negotiation would only embolden the government and lead to further delays. Should the Congolese government persist in such stonewalling, we urge you to bring the matter to the attention of the Security Council and seek the imposition of firm sanctions.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director
Joanna Weschler
U.N. Representative

cc: Members of the Security Council
Mr. Iqbal Riza
Ms. Elisabeth Lindenmayer
Mr. Shashi Tharoor
Mr. Eric Schwartz