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(Geneva) – The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution on June 23, 2017, directing the UN high commissioner for human rights to send a team of international experts to investigate alleged human rights violations and abuses in the central Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese government has agreed to cooperate, including by facilitating access. The final resolution incorporates language from proposals prepared by the African and European groups at the Council.

Still from a video posted on the internet on February 17, 2017 showing men in Congolese army uniforms fatally shooting at least 13 alleged militia members.

“The Human Rights Council-mandated international investigation brings hope of uncovering the truth about the horrific violence in the Kasai region since August, a step toward justice for thousands of victims,” said Laila Matar, UN advocate at Human Rights Watch. “The UN, the Human Rights Council, and above all the Congolese authorities now need to ensure unhindered access and all the support the team needs to independently produce a robust and credible report.”

Since large-scale violence broke out in the central Kasai region in August 2016, more than 3,300 people have been killed, according to a report by the Catholic Church. More than 1.3 million people have been displaced, and more than 600 schools have been attacked or destroyed. Two UN experts were murdered in March while investigating human rights abuses in the region.

The high commissioner is to update the Human Rights Council in March 2018 with the team’s participation and will submit a final report with the team’s findings next June.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over Congo, should consider investigating the crimes committed in the Kasai region and, evidence permitting, take steps to hold those most responsible to account, Human Rights Watch said. In March, the prosecutor said she was “deeply concerned” about violence in the Kasais and that her office was carefully monitoring the situation. The High Commissioner told the Council on June 20 that he will “remain in touch” with the ICC regarding the situation in the Kasai region.

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