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Warring sides in Republic of Congo disregard human rights, UN official says

Warring sides in Republic of Congo disregard human rights, UN official says

Mary Robinson
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today voiced concern over abuses in the Republic of Congo, where fighting has displaced tens of thousands of civilians and prevented relief workers from gaining access to those in need of assistance.

"I am deeply concerned at the deteriorating situation in the Republic of Congo, in particular in the Pool region, where both parties to the ongoing conflict are showing blatant disregard for the safety and human rights of the civilian population," High Commissioner Mary Robinson said in a statement released in Geneva.

The High Commissioner cited eyewitness reports that government forces had launched helicopter attacks against inhabited villages in the Pool region, killing and injuring "an unknown number of civilians" with indiscriminate rocket and machine gun fire. Widespread destruction of houses and other property was also reported.

Dozens of women had allegedly been raped by men in uniform, according to Mrs. Robinson. At the same time, the fate of a number of young men reported to have been abducted from camps for internally displaced persons remained unknown.

"I appeal to the Government of the Republic of Congo to take immediate steps to ensure the safety and integrity of the civilian population," Mrs. Robinson said, urging the warring parties to grant humanitarian agencies free and unconditional access reach all those in need of assistance.

She noted that since the fighting began in late March, some 45,000 civilians have been displaced in the Pool region, and humanitarian access to the most affected parts of the area had been denied for the last two months. She expressed particular concern about the situation in the besieged town of Kindamba, where food and medical supplies were reportedly running low while the civilian population continued to suffer from armed attacks by the so-called Ninja rebels.