For Immediate Release
UN: Ensure Peacekeepers in Congo Focus on Protecting Civilians
Secretary-General Should Act to Prevent Peacekeepers From Being Implicated in War Crimes
NEW YORK - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should ensure that the UN
peacekeeping force in Congo focuses on protecting civilians and avoids
supporting Congolese army operations that implicate peacekeepers in
violations of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN
Security Council is expected to adopt a new resolution on the
peacekeeping mission's mandate on December 23, 2009.
"The civilian cost of the current military operations in eastern
Congo has been catastrophic," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at
Human Rights Watch. "The secretary-general should ensure that MONUC's
new mandate is implemented in a way that ensures peacekeepers do not
find themselves aiding those who are committing war crimes."
Human Rights Watch called for MONUC's conditionality policy that
sets out conditions for the mission's support to Congolese army units
to include the removal of Congolese army commanders with a documented
track record of grave human rights abuses.
In the new resolution, which extends MONUC's mandate until May 31,
2010, with the intention to extend it for a further twelve months, the
Security Council requests the secretary-general to establish an
"appropriate mechanism" to assess how MONUC's conditionality policy is
being carried out.
In line with this request, Human Rights Watch called on the
secretary-general to urgently deploy an independent Civilian Protection
Expert Group to eastern Congo to examine the implementation of MONUC's
conditionality policy. Sending an expert group would be consistent with
the UN Security Council Resolution 1894 to advance and ensure
protection of civilians and the secretary-general's own recommendations
from his March 2009 report to the UN Security Council.
Human Rights Watch also recommended that the independent group
of experts report back to the Security Council before the end of
MONUC's mandate in May 2010 with an account of major attacks against
civilians committed over the past year in eastern Congo and an
assessment of the system-wide strategy to protect civilians.
The expert group should also provide an analysis of how the
conditionality policy was or was not applied during the peacekeepers'
support of military operations in 2009 and offer concrete
recommendations on when and how the peacekeeping mission can support
Congolese army military operations, and effectively use its leverage
while abiding by its legal obligations and top priority to protect
A 183-page report released last week by Human Rights Watch, "‘You Will Be Punished': Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Congo,"
documents in detail the deliberate killing of more than 1,400 civilians
between January and September 2009 during two successive Congolese army
operations against a Rwandan Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Since March, MONUC has supported the
Congolese army in the second operation, known as Kimia II,
through logistical and operations support such as intelligence and
operations planning, fire support, air strikes, transportation, joint
patrolling, and medical evacuations.
During the operations, government and rebel forces deliberately
attacked civilians to "punish" them, chopping them to death by machete,
shooting civilians dead while they fled, and burning them in their
homes. Thousands of women and girls have been gang-raped, some so
violently that they later died. More than 9,500 homes and other
structures have been burned to the ground, and an estimated 900,000
people have fled for their lives.
In a speech to the Security Council last week, the head of MONUC, Alan Doss, announced that operation Kimia II
would end on December 31. He also announced that a new force directive
had been signed by MONUC's force commander and the Congolese army chief
of staff, in which they agreed to move to a new phase of operations,
focused on holding ground recovered from the FDLR, preventing attacks
on civilians in areas where they are vulnerable, and undertaking
focused interventions against FDLR centers of command and control.
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Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.