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UN expert on human rights in DR of Congo resigns

UN expert on human rights in DR of Congo resigns

Roberto Garreton, an expert of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights who was reporting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has submitted his resignation, citing conflicting mandates with a new advisory position he has just accepted.

Special Rapporteur Mr. Garreton, a lawyer from Chile, said that he had resigned because his new responsibilities as advisor to the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Latin American Economic Community, based in Santiago, Chile, were incompatible with the status of independent expert that the Special Rapporteur's mandate called for. Yesterday, Mr. Garreton presented his letter of resignation to the President of the UN Commission on Human Rights. He also sent letters to Congolese President Joseph Kabila and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to inform them of his resignation.

In a statement, Mr. Garreton said the Commission on Human Rights should quickly appoint his successor, noting that a mission was scheduled to visit the DRC early in 2002 to investigate allegations of massacres and violations of human rights in the country between 1996 and 1997, in conformity with resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights on these issues. That mission would be comprised of Mr. Garreton's successor, as well as the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and a member of the Working Group on forced or involuntary disappearances.

Mr. Garreton said there was no statutory limitation to these crimes against humanity, and that the process of reconciliation in the country as well as in the Great Lakes region would not succeed if the cycle of impunity continued. "The identification and bringing to justice of those responsible for these massacres will be an important step in this sense, and it is imperative that the truth is established for the thousands of men, women and children who were killed," he said.

Following his resignation, Mr. Garreton made public today an open letter to the Congolese people in which he thanked all those who had helped and supported him during the eight years he was Special Rapporteur. Since 1994, he has carried out nine missions to the country, most recently in July-August. He was banned from visiting the country for two years by the Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo/Zaïre after publishing a report in which he said that thousands of Rwandan refugees were massacred in 1996 and 1997.