The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo today said it is highly alarmed over allegations of killings, forced recruitment and illegal detention of civilians by the March 23 Movement (M23) and urged humanitarian access to areas controlled by the rebel group.
“The Mission condemns all serious human rights violations attributed to the members of the M23 and reiterates its call to the M23 to fully respect human rights and international humanitarian law” said Abdallah Wafy, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC in charge of the rule of law.
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) “warns the M23 that it will be held responsible for the fate of anyone it has abducted or forcibly recruited,” Mr. Wafy added in the statement.
The Mission said that it had received credible reports indicating that ten people were forcefully recruited by the M23 combatants on 22 July at Kibumba, in the territory of Nyiragongo, North-Kivu province.
“Three of the ten victims were reportedly killed by the M23 combatants as they were attempting to escape,” the Mission reported.
MONUSCO also received “reliable allegations” that approximately twenty houses in Kiwanja, Rutshuru territory, were looted on 24 July by members of the M23.
“After the looting, members of the M23 allegedly abducted at least forty men accused of participating in the looting and subsequent torching of huts and payment points used by M23 combatants,” the Mission said.
Over the past year, the M23, along with other armed groups, has clashed repeatedly with Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in the eastern DRC, with the rebels briefly occupying Goma, the region's main city, in November 2012.
The fighting, which erupted again in recent days, this time dragging in a group of Ugandan-based rebels, has displaced more than 100,000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which includes 2.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 6.4 million in need of food and emergency aid.
MONUSCO said that since the new hostilities broke out in mid-July with the FARDC, the M23 has been preventing humanitarian access to some towns and areas devastated by the fighting, especially Mutaho.
“These actions by the rebel group come at a time when many displaced persons are in dire need of humanitarian assistance such as food, shelter, water, health care and sanitation,” the Mission reiterated.
In today's statement, MONUSCO also highlighted that Sultani Makenga and several senior members of the M23 have previously been involved in serious human rights violations, including the widespread extra-judicial executions perpetrated in Kiwanja during November 2008.