Human Rights Watch called upon the African government ministers meeting in Lusaka today to urge full investigations into human rights abuses in the Congo war.
“No peace process will be durable unless it is founded on the basis of respect for human rights and the rule of law,?said Peter Takirambudde, executive director for Africa at Human Rights Watch. “The international community has to integrate human rights concerns into the peace process. Otherwise, all parties to the conflict feel encouraged to use any method possible to achieve their objectives.?/p>
The Lusaka summit should call on the Congolese Rally for Democracy to follow through on its pledge to launch an investigation of the Makobola massacre, which took place over the New Year, and punish those responsible for the killings. Forces from Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda aligned with the RCD should cooperate with the investigation and hold their forces accountable if implicated. Similarly, the Rally should be called upon to thoroughly investigate the August Kasika massacre and other reported human rights abuses in areas under its control, and to facilitate independent investigations by local and international monitoring groups.
On the Congolese government side, the Lusaka summit should express serious concerns about ongoing abuses against civilians, including new reports of massacres by Congolese soldiers and their allies fighting in the northwest of the country. In addition, on January 12, some thirty-five civilians—mostly women—were rounded up by government soldiers from the religious center “Bethanie,?of the Sacred Heart Parish in Kinshasa, and taken to Camp Kokolo, headquarters of the 50th brigade of the Congolese army. Those arrested, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were previously held in Camp Kokolo in August and September as part of an anti-Tutsi campaign during which dozens of detained Tutsis were executed. Among those arrested were at least two Congolese human rights activists.
In a welcome development, on January 11 the Congolese government announced that it had invited the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Congo, Roberto Garret? to return to the country after being effectively declared persona non grata for the past two years, to investigate both the 1996-97 massacres and the current situation. Human Rights Watch urges that he be given full access and cooperation to conduct independent investigations into these events.
Human Rights Watch urges all parties to the conflict to protect the civilian population, and to protect human rights and international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.