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Serious rights abuses committed during March 2007 clashes in DR Congo – UN

Serious rights abuses committed during March 2007 clashes in DR Congo – UN

An investigation by the United Nations human rights office has found that serious abuses – including the use of excessive force, illegal detentions and summary executions – took place during clashes between Government forces and guards of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa last March.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today released the preliminary findings of its probe into the events of 22 and 23 March 2007, which occurred nearly six months after Mr. Bemba lost to Joseph Kabila in the run-off round of landmark presidential elections, the first such polls in more than four decades in the vast African nation.

Some 300 people lost their lives during the clashes and their aftermath, according to a statement released by the Geneva-based OHCHR.

“Incidents of serious human rights violations were also documented,” including excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the country’s armed forces (FARDC) and the Republican Guard, as well as the use of heavy weapons by both sides in the city centre, the statement added.

In addition, the investigators received “credible information” that at least 40 civilians and members of Mr. Bemba’s security team who had surrendered were summarily executed.

“Reports of mass burial sites and evidence of bodies of unidentified victims recovered in the Congo River, however, indicate that there may have been a significantly higher number of summary executions committed,” the statement noted.

The investigative team recommended that a judicial probe be carried out by the Congolese authorities and that victims who lost family members, who were injured or whose property was damaged be compensated.

In addition, it stated that the Congolese authorities should issue a comprehensive public statement about the events, explaining what happened and what has been done by the authorities to correct wrongdoing by Government forces and other security personnel.