The expert panel monitoring United Nations sanctions imposed on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has underscored the need for a vetting mechanism to screen the human rights records of officers in the national army, as part of overall efforts to reform the security sector.
In its interim report, published today, the Group of Experts on the DRC focuses on the security situation in North Kivu province, where the most serious fighting took place in late 2008, and particularly on the accelerated military integration of non-State armed groups into the national army (FARDC) in early 2009.
They state that information on the continued presence of children in the ranks of the recently integrated brigades, as well as grave human rights abuses committed by former commanders of armed groups currently integrated in the FARDC “make a compelling argument” for the establishment of a vetting mechanism.
The Group considers that such an initiative is “indispensable” for a sustainable integration process, and would strengthen the Government’s capacity to effectively extend State authority in the strife-torn eastern part of the vast nation and protect its own nationals.
“In the absence of such a mechanism, command responsibility for human rights abuses of the civilian population will ultimately rest with the supreme military command of FARDC,” the report adds.
The Group also highlights a number of other concerns on the issue of military integration, notably the maintenance of parallel command structures operated by former senior officers of rebel National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP) who have been integrated into the FARDC.
Also, it notes that there are several armed groups in South Kivu which have not yet joined the integration process, including some Mai-Mai militias. The Group is also concerned about ongoing militia activities in the Ituri region, which it continues to monitor closely.
The Group is also continuing to monitor the situation in north-eastern DRC, after it received verified reports of hundreds of civilian casualties and abductions at the hands of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since December 2008.