DR Congo + 2 more

Press statement by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Mission to the DR Congo, 5-15 Oct 2009


I visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 5-15 October, and held meetings in Kinshasa, Bas Congo (Kisantu), North Kivu (Goma), South Kivu (Bukavu and Minova), and Province Orientale (Dungu and Doruma).

Across the DRC, I met with central, provincial and local Government officials, members of the military and police, judges and prosecutors, MONUC officials, members of the diplomatic community, representatives of civil society at all levels, humanitarian agencies, representatives of religious groups, prison detainees, and former combatants from the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). I also met with many witnesses to human rights abuses and family members of victims.

I express my deep appreciation to the Government of the DRC for having invited me to visit the country. This indication of its willingness to cooperate with the work of the UN Human Rights Council deserves full recognition. I am also grateful to MONUC which has done an enormous amount to facilitate the success of my mission. The two DSRSGs, Leila Zerrougi and Ross Mountain, the Force Commander Babacar Gaye, and Todd Howland, Director of the Joint Human Rights Office, have done far more than could reasonably have been expected. They are, however, not responsible for any of the recommendations or analysis offered in my capacity as an independent expert.

The international law definition of extrajudicial execution is far broader than that under DRC law. It encompasses any killing by Government forces as well as killings by any other groups or individuals which the Government fails to investigate, prosecute and punish when it is in a position to do so.

One of the most troubling overall issues in the DRC is the radical privatization of the state. The military is poorly paid and often not paid at all, but it is understood that soldiers will extract their own rewards from the community, through extortion and theft. MONUC provides much of their rations. An ineffectual justice system tolerates and perhaps even encourages 'popular justice' exacted by the local community. Healthcare and education are outsourced to international agencies, and Government officials expressed anger that the latter were not doing far more. The central Government provides funds to only one prison in the entire country. The rest function on the basis of exactions that their often unappointed administrators can obtain from prisoners, their relatives, and others. The privatization phenomenon relieves most of the pressure for fiscal reform and accountability. The Government needs only to find resources for itself. The response to this phenomenon is beyond the scope of my report, but until the problem is confronted robustly, the ability of the state to provide security, ensure justice, and respect human rights will continue to erode dramatically. And the billions of dollars provided by the international community will have yielded no sustainable institutional framework.

Killings by the Congolese army and FDLR in North and South Kivu

Kimia II - the ongoing MONUC-supported Congolese army (FARDC) military operation in the Kivus against the FDLR armed group that began formally in February 2009 - has a range of objectives. But, from a human rights perspective, it has produced catastrophic results. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced, thousands raped, hundreds of villages burnt to the ground, and at least 1,000 civilians killed. In addition, the mines in the Kivus have not been demilitarized and continue to be exploited by armed groups, especially the FARDC.

A lack of planning, coordination and cooperation in Kimia II have led to predictable and repeated killings - including massacres in Southern Walikali and Masisi - by the FDLR. Villages left without protection by the FARDC or MONUC have been easy targets for the FDLR forces. Since January 2009, the FDLR have committed an average of 50-60 killings per month, compared to less than 10 killings per month in 2008. Violent rape has accompanied these atrocities. Many of the killings have been in retaliation against civilians who were believed to have cooperated with the FARDC when they were in control of the area. Senior FDLR commanders, including those currently residing in Germany who play a critical role in FDLR operations, remain free.

In many areas, it is the FARDC themselves who pose the greatest direct risk to security. The lack of vetting, training, and planning of the integration of former armed group members, especially the ex-Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) into the FARDC in the Kivus has, not surprisingly, escalated the abuses committed by the army against civilians, and failed to break down parallel ex-CNDP command structures within the army. The process of developing a professional military has not yet begun in earnest. Training has often been perfunctory at best, even for many commanders. The precise number of soldiers is unknown, and the composition of military units is unclear. Soldiers' uniforms rarely identify their name or brigade. Ongoing efforts by EUSEC to carry out a much needed census of the army are indispensable to professionalizing the armed forces.

I have received credible information of significant and largely unreported killings by the FARDC in the Kivus during 2009. In Shalio (near Busurungi in North Kivu) it appears that the FARDC, led by Colonel Zimulinda, attacked a makeshift camp of Rwandan Hutu refugees on 27 April 2009. The FARDC surrounded the camp, shot and beat to death at least 50 refugees and burnt the camp to the ground. It also appears that some 40 women were abducted from the camp. A small group of 10 who escaped described being gang raped, and had severe injuries; some had chunks of their breasts hacked off. It is not known what has happened to the other 30 women. On 10 May, at least 96 civilians were massacred by the FDLR in Busurungi largely in retaliation for the Shalio killings. I have also received early indications of many killings by the FARDC on the Nyabiando to Pinga axis in North Kivu. A thorough investigation should be launched.

In addition to these large-scale killings by FARDC units, there have been many cases of opportunistic murder by soldiers. Regular failures by the Government to provide soldiers their rations and pay, together with embezzlement by commanders, forces soldiers to literally prey on the population. I received extensive testimony of such cases, including many killings during attempts to steal food and other basic items, or deaths in the context of the FARDC forcing civilians to carry items for them. It is clear that abuses by the FARDC are dramatically reduced in areas where they are paid and fed.