Tag Archives: DRC

UN List of Suspected Congolese Civil War Criminals to Stay Secret

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared in Kinshasa on Thursday that his office’s data base on suspected perpetrators of serious crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from 1993 to 2003 will remain secret. He said this was because measures are lacking to protect victims and witnesses, but a senior UN official who wishes to remain anonymous claimed African countries are exerting pressure to stop the list being published.

In October 2010, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights published its “Mapping” report on serious crimes committed in the DRC between March 1993 and June 2003. This 550-page document covers mainly the two Congo wars in which, between 1996 and 2003, as many as nine countries – Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Libya and Sudan – were involved. It documents 617 serious incidents over a decade, including massacres and sexual violence, committed mainly by the Congolese army, foreign armies and rebel groups.

This report has fed a secret data base of suspected perpetrators of abuses, most of which could be categorized as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Congolese and international NGOs like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have frequently called for justice. Pressure is mounting. On March 8, International Women’s Day, an open letter entitled “No to impunity for rapes and massacres in the DRC” was submitted to Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees in the DRC by Paul Kagame’s army

This letter signed by nearly 200 Congolese associations – whose October 20 petition gathered 450 signatures – calls for the “embargo” on the database to be lifted. Those supporting the call include gynaecologist Denis Mukwege, famous for his work treating thousands of rape victims in the eastern DRC, which has been unstable for 20 years. “Fighting impunity is a way to protect the women we look after, but also to bring peace,” he told JusticeInfo. “Wherever people have tried to make peace without justice, we can see that it has failed!

Caution

But the UN deems it too dangerous to reveal everything. “This case in particular must always be handled extremely cautiously,” Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein told the press on Thursday in Kinshasa. He said his office has “very sensitive information on a number of different investigations”. “Before disclosing the information to any judicial body investigating the alleged crimes, we need to make sure that there is adequate protection for witnesses and victims,” he continued. “If there is no framework for protection of victims and witnesses, we need to exercise caution.

Dr Mukwege understands these arguments but stresses that “perpetrators of these crimes must not be allowed to escape justice”. “We still need to launch a process fairly quickly to have a judicial body that can try these crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity – that have been committed in the DRC,” he insists. His remarks come as people are still waiting for the DRC to set up special mixed courts with national and international judges and prosecutors to try the crimes committed in the 1990s in the former Belgian colony.

For the UN, keeping the database secret is also meant to prevent any interference with the administration of justice. In a response to the associations’ open letter, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein says that unveiling the list could “contribute to the destruction of evidence and compromise future actions and initiatives, in particular trials aimed at holding the perpetrators of serious crimes accountable”. At UN headquarters in New-York, a senior official says that the deadlock is also the result of strong pressure from States.

So who is exerting pressure? According to him, African countries at the UN are “mobilizing to ensure that nothing is revealed `before being sure of the facts`, but in order to be sure of the facts, States need to launch investigations”. They are not in a hurry to do so. “Some States seem to think that [committing serious crimes] is part of war and that it’s a Western speciality to get upset about it,” he says. “Other States do not want their army’s image tarnished by these accusations. So it’s partly nationalism but also the desire to keep power, since they rely on the army to remain in government.”

Pressure from the DRC, Chad and Rwanda

He says States including the DRC, Chad and Rwanda “have all exerted pressure in different ways” to ensure that the list remains secret, including “threats” to withdraw troops deployed in UN peacekeeping missions or to “create administrative difficulties for UN agencies”. In this context and given the high stakes, he thinks it is unlikely the database will be published. “The issue is very sensitive,” he says. “It’s closely guarded, so unless there is a leak or a `UN Snowden`, it is unlikely the list will be revealed.”

Dr Mukwege regrets this pressure. “If we let it go on, it’s a way of saying also that someone else, another army, another organization can commit crimes and then use blackmail!” he says. “I do not think you can have a pretext for war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. There is no pretext. The day must come when the people who have committed these crimes in the DRC are brought to justice. That is the only way, the way that has been used across the world when war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. The DRC should not be an exception.

The database is nevertheless used in the wings. According to Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein’s letter, it has allowed “some prosecutions to be initiated” at the International Criminal Court (ICC), at foreign courts that can act under universal jurisdiction and Congolese courts such as the Military High Court. “But,” says the UN human rights chief, “these efforts at various levels are insufficient, and so we will persist in our work, notably through regular exchanges with the Congolese authorities.”

Source : justiceinfo.net


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Membe thrashes Wenje’s allegations : ‘Prove I was wrong about Rwanda stoking war in DRC, and I’ll resign’

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DRC Diplomacy Chief Bernard Membe(L) thrashes Ezekiah Wenje’s allegations.

Dodoma/Dar es Salaam. Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe said yesterday that he would resign if the Opposition proved his controversial remarks about Rwanda were wrong.

Mr Membe was responding to allegations levelled against him by Shadow Foreign Affairs minister Ezekiah Wenje.

Winding up debate on his ministry’s 2014/15 budget proposals in Parliament, Mr Membe offered to resign if Mr Wenje would provide documentary proof that he was wrong when he said last September that the Banyamulenge in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were ethnic Tutsis originating from Rwanda.

“This is a fact that cannot be denied,” he said.

He said the Banyamulenge, who formed the M23 rebel group that fought the DRC government for a number of years, were Tutsis originating from Rwanda, while members of the the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) were Rwandans, who fled to eastern DRC after the 1994 genocide.

“When I told the BBC that Rwandans were causing instability in Eastern Congo, I meant what I said…it’s the UN’s group of experts that originally accused Rwanda, not me,” Mr Membe told Parliament.

He admitted that relations between Tanzania and Rwanda were strained, but added that “opportunists” had taken advantage of the situation to fuel diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Presenting the Opposition’s response to the ministry’s budget proposals earlier, Mr Wenje accused Mr Membe of stoking diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

Although Mr Membe made no mention of the frigid relations in the speech, Mr Wenje said the minister was to blame for the situation.

This forced Mr Membe to hit back when responding to MPs’ views, accusing Mr Wenje of being a stooge of a foreign country. The shadow minister strongly denied the claim.

Mr Wenje, who is also the Nyamagana MP, earlier told Parliament that Mr Membe’s remarks on the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme had worsened the fragile relations between Tanzania and Rwanda.

He said such comments could only heighten confusion and anger among ordinary citizens of the two countries.

The shadow minister claimed that Mr Membe said Rwanda had exported insecurity and instability to eastern DRC after sending rebels into country.

He said the minister made inaccurate comments about Rwanda and the M23 rebellion in eastern DRC.

But Mr Membe stood his ground, saying what he said was the truth, which had even been documented by UN experts.

Mr Wenje also said the government had not bothered to warn former Rwandan Prime Minister Faustine Twagiramungu after he was quoted saying he had held talks with Tanzania to strategise on how the FDLR could take over power in Rwanda.

Tanzania has repeatedly stated that if Mr Twagiramungu visited Dar es Salaam, he came on a private visit and was not invited by the government as claimed by the News of Rwanda website.

Mr Membe said Tanzania was playing a key role in finding lasting peace in the Great Lakes Region.

The United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, also known as the SADC Intervention Brigade and led by Brigadier General James Mwakibolwa from Tanzania, had successfully dismantled M23 restored peace in eastern DRC, he added.

Relations between Tanzania and Rwanda took a plunge in May 2013 following President Jakaya Kikwete’s appeal to Rwanda to engage FDRL rebels in talks.

Mr Kikwete’s suggestion at a meeting of the Great Lakes countries, which met on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, did not go down well with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

The government in Kigali links the FDLR with the 1994 genocide, in which over 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered.

M23, which dominated the North Kivu Province since the end of the Second Congo War in 2003 before it was defeated last year by a joint force from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi, is a reincarnation of the National Congress for Defence of the People.

In April, 2012 up to 700 former CNDP soldiers mutinied against the DRC government that was being supported by the peacekeeping contingent of the Unites Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Monusco).

The mutineers formed M23, also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, which was allegedly bankrolled by neighbouring Rwanda.

Source: http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/House-divided-as-Membe-hits-back/-/1840392/2328676/-/item/0/-/1214odm/-/index.html