Senior United Nations officials appealed today for justice for crimes committed by the March 23 Movement (M23)in parts of the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Council (DRC), on the heels of a new UN- backed report citing a raft of grave rights abuses committed by the armed group between April 2012 and November 2013.
In a report published today by the Joint Office of the UN for Human Rights in the DRC (JHRO) revealed that during this period, when M23 had effective control of parts of North Kivu, serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law – which could constitute international crimes as well as crimes under the Penal Code Congolese – were committed by the group.
“I congratulate the Congolese authorities for prosecution of such cases against some members of the M23 and I encourage them to continue their efforts to ensure that those responsible for serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are held to account to justice as soon as possible,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a statement issued by his Office in Geneva.
The High Commissioner added that justice for the victims is fundamental to “finally stop the cycle of impunity that have undermined efforts for peace in the DRC for too long.”
According to the UN Human Rights Office, more than 116 people have been victims of violations of the right to life. Some 351 suffered violations of the right to physical integrity, including 161 rapes. The group also committed 296 violations of the right to liberty and security of person, including abduction and forced recruitment. In addition, 50 cases of damage to property rights were also committed by elements of the M23, the report said.
The total number of victims could be much higher to the extent that staff JHRO faced various challenges as part of its investigation into these violations of human rights, the report adds.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General in the DRC, Martin Kobler, also insisted that the perpetrators of human rights accountable for their actions in court, and took note of the new amnesty law in the DRC which would grant amnesty to many members of M23 and allow their return to the country.
He urged Congolese authorities to ensure strict enforcement of the law so that members of M23 “who are guilty of serious crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes cannot be pardoned.”