Senior UN officials stress need to end culture of impunity in DR of Congo

7 July 2003

Two senior United Nations officials stressed today that while installation of a transitional government in Kinshasa may help return law and order to war-ravaged northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), real progress - and lasting peace - would take hold only when perpetrators committing crimes in the region were brought to justice.

Briefing the UN Security Council on two reports covering the political and human rights aspects of the situation in the DRC since war broke out in mineral-rich Ituri district, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said for months now, the Secretariat had underscored the ongoing violence - particularly in the town of Bunia - where issues of economic necessity and sustenance, land and exploitation of natural resources had been fuelled by the ambitions of local and external players to dominate the region.

The total breakdown of law and order in Ituri meant that no one, including rival militias and other armed groups, had been held accountable for their actions, Mr. Guéhenno said. He hoped that with installation of the transitional Government in Kinshasa, those who were guilty would be brought to justice. But that could only happen if there was a degree of centralized control in the administration of justice, and in the rule of law sector.

Continued international pressure was needed to convince the Congolese parties that the transitional process was the only option available to them. "There can not be any real peace without an end to impunity," Mr. Guéhenno added, inviting the Council to consider additional steps to help the DRC authorities to bring to justice those who were accountable, through the active support of the international community.

Bertrand Ramcharan Acting UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights echoed this emphasis, saying: "In the report you have considered today there is incontrovertible evidence pointing to the criminal responsibility of particular individuals. They must know from this Security Council that they will be brought to justice," he said, adding: "In the final analysis, human rights are the measure and international security must be achieved through human security."

He focused on the events of April, in which Lendu militias around Drodro had engaged in assaults, killings, torture, looting and the destruction of property. Telling the Council that a team of investigators had discovered 20 mass graves in the area, he maintained that, since the team had not been able to visit eight other locales, it was likely that more such graves existed. He added that his Office had continued to monitor the situation in Ituri and had reported more violence between Lendu and Hema militias in May and June 2003. That fighting had led to at least 350 casualties - mainly civilians, including 37 people whose throats had been cut and who had been hacked with machetes at the town hospital.

He stressed that all the parties in the eastern part of the country were using human rights violations as a means of creating an atmosphere of terror and oppression in order to control the population and natural resources.

Mr. Guéhenno said that the overall security situation in Bunia was stable, and the Interim Emergency Multinational Force (IEMF), together with the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) contingent, continued to patrol the town, which was declared a "weapons free zone" as of 25 June.

In the meantime, some 6,000 internally displaced persons, many of whom were apparently original residents of the town, had returned from camps and outlying areas, he continued.

The rationale behind an enhanced security presence in Bunia had been to create sufficient political space for the Ituri Interim Administration to establish itself on a firmer footing, Mr. Guéhenno went on. The Administration was now taking a more proactive stance in implementing its mandate and had appointed a mayor for Bunia and had started to deploy its local civilian police - albeit in small numbers - to key areas in the town, in coordination with MONUC. However, it must be recognized that establishing full authority and competencies of the Interim Administration would be a long-term process.


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