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DR Congo: UN has suspended cooperation with army units accused of rights abuses

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United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have suspended logistical or other support for units of the National Armed Forces (FARDC) when there are sufficient grounds to believe their operations would violate human rights, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Asked at a news conference about a report that 1,400 civilians had been killed by Congolese or Rwandan troops and by rebels in eastern DRC as a result of the so-called Kimia II military operations launched with the cooperation of the UN Mission in DRC, known as MONUC, Mr. Ban replied: "MONUC continues to give the highest priority to the protection of civilians, which is something I strongly value. We have always acted in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council."

MONUC and the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) requested advice from the Office of Legal Affairs and they have already suspended cooperation with certain units, he said.

"We will continue to work, keeping in mind the highest priority is protecting the civilian population in military operations," he added. "Unfortunately, the Kimia II operation has been proved to be where many civilian casualties have happened, and that is why we have immediately suspended our military operations and cooperation with some parts of the Congolese national forces."

He pointed out that MONUC's mandate is to help the Congolese Armed Forces, but stressed: "I made it, and we made it, quite clear that whenever there [are] grounds for violation of the human rights situation, then we will suspend these military operations."

Asked whether the situation was serious enough for a blanket suspension, he replied: "There is an overall important mission that MONUC has to carry out in accordance with the Security Council mandate to preserve peace and security and to protect the civilian population.

"I am not sure whether it is desirable to suspend the whole peacekeeping operation there. That is what the Security Council has to decide, in closely following the situation, as well as assessing the situation there."