(New York) - Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations Security Council today to take action against the looting of resources by foreign troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo and address the devastating human rights abuses being committed by the same troops.
The international monitoring group also called for the U.N. to establish a Commission of Experts to investigate and determine responsibility for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law in the DRC by all sides.
"While Ugandan commanders were plundering gold, looting timber, exporting coffee, and controlling illicit trade monopolies in the Ituri district, their troops were killing and otherwise abusing the local population," said Alison Des Forges, Senior Advisor at the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "Absent international pressure, the situation can only get worse."
On April 16, a U.N. panel of experts on resource exploitation in the DRC published a report concluding that the governments of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, whose troops occupy parts of eastern DRC, are profiting from the conflict by looting gold and other precious minerals, diamonds, timber, elephant tusks and tax revenues. The report also finds that those foreign forces allied with the Congolese government - Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia - are also profiting from the conflict.
"The panel of experts is certainly right in concluding that 'the only loser in this huge business venture is the Congolese people," said DesForges.
Human Rights Watch recently reported grave human rights abuses by Ugandan troops and rebel forces allied with them in the northeastern DRC. The report, "Uganda in Eastern DRC: Fueling Political and Ethnic Strife," is available on the Human Rights Watch website.
The illegal exploitation of resources has also exacerbated the suffering of the population in the areas of the Kivu provinces occupied by Rwanda and Burundi. The U.N. panel charges that Rwanda has used prisoners from its jails to mine resources in eastern DRC, a practice on which Human Rights Watch has also received testimonies. Human Rights Watch is still investigating but has not published a report on this specific issue, as may be inferred from the panel's comment.
Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to extend the mandate of the panel on the illegal exploitation of resources to allow it to conduct follow-up investigations and to complement its investigations on resource exploitation by governments allied with the Congolese government.