The Congolese government must take urgent steps to stop the violence in the east of the country and hold to account all who have committed human rights abuses, Amnesty International said, as the DRC prepares to host a major gathering of Francophone leaders.
The Francophonie Summit – a biennial gathering of French speaking nations – will be hosted from the 12 -14 October in Kinshasa, as violence in the east is escalating, resulting in widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
“Human rights abuses continue unabated and with total impunity,” says Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Africa Director.
An Amnesty International delegation has recently returned from eastern DRC, where delegates documented cases of rape, summary killings, forced recruitment of civilians including children, looting and illegal taxation by different armed groups.
“We are urging member states of International Organisation of Francophonie to ensure that the numerous violations of the values and principles stated in the Francophone Charter and the Bamako Declaration, are condemned in the strongest possible terms. The Organization should use all existing mechanisms to ensure that the Congolese authorities fulfil their obligations as a member state.”
French president, Francois Hollande will attend the Summit, along with other heads of state of francophone countries from around the world.
“The leaders of Francophone nations are assembling in a country where there are daily reports of egregious abuses. They cannot ignore the context in which this major Summit is taking place. They have a responsibility to engage with the Congolese authorities and demand action to stop the violence and hold perpetrators to account,” said Audrey Gaughran.
Since conflict began between the Congolese army and the M23 armed group in April 2012, over 226 000 people have been forced to leave their homes in North Kivu province while about 60, 000 have crossed the border to seek refuge in Uganda and Rwanda.
In July 2012, civilians were caught in the cross fire between government forces (FARDC) and the M23 who launched attacks against Rutshuru and Kiwanja, showing complete disregard for international standards with regard to protection of civilians.
Amnesty International is also concerned about the increase of ethnic-related violence. Between May – September 2012, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), the Nyatura and Raia Mutomboki armed groups in Masisi territory specifically targeted civilians who belonged or who were believed to belong to certain ethnic groups.
Impunity for breaches of international law has become entrenched in the DRC.
Despite arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Bosco Ntaganda and Sylvestre Mudacumura, both indicted for war crimes, neither of them has been arrested.
Amnesty International welcomes the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the International Organisation of Francophonie (IOF) and the ICC on 28 September and calls upon the IOF to urge the Congolese authorities to arrest and transfer the indicted men to the ICC.
Amnesty International is also deeply concerned by the increasing threats and intimidation against human rights defenders, members of the opposition and journalists in the DRC.
In Kinshasa, over the past six months, several members of political opposition groups, especially the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), have been harassed, threatened and intimidated due to their political activities.
Opposition figure Eugene Diomi Ndongala and human rights defender Rene Kahukula are reportedly detained incommunicado in Kinshasa by the intelligence services.
Amnesty International calls upon the IOF to use all its influence to urge the Congolese authorities to immediately disclose their whereabouts, provide access to lawyers and medical care, and either release or charge them and allow them to challenge the legality of their detention before the court.
A briefing paper is available in French highlighting Amnesty International’s major concerns relating to the security and human rights situation in the DRC and recommendations to the member states of the International Organisation of Francophonie.
For more information please call Amnesty International’s press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: [email protected]