DR Congo

UN probes torture allegation by Congo peacekeepers

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By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was investigating allegations that peacekeepers beat and killed prisoners in reprisal for an ambush in eastern Congo in 2005.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said William Lacy Swing, in charge of the mission, had called in the U.N. watchdog from New York, the Office of Internal Oversight, to look into the 2-year-old incident again.

Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, also recently provided additional information, she said.

"There had been a number of investigations into this case," Montas said.

She said the U.N. mission, which supervises more than 17,000 peacekeepers, had found in an earlier probe that "excessive force was used against detainees who were reportedly trying to escape" in the eastern Congo region of Ituri, where fighting between ethnic militias continued after the official end of a 1998-2003 war.

Still, a new investigation was scheduled on the allegations, reported in Monday's Financial Times, which said that U.N. peacekeepers captured 30 suspected militia men in February 2005. Bangladeshi soldiers detained 15 of them in makeshift cells, and allegedly beat and killed some of them.

When the original internal inquiry was completed in 2005, it was not sent to U.N. headquarters or to Bangladeshi authorities, as is the usual practice, the paper said.

Nine U.N. peacekeepers, all from Bangladesh, were killed Feb. 25, 2005, after a U.N. patrol was ambushed in northeastern Congo. Days after the attack, U.N. soldiers killed at least 50 militiamen in a fierce battle.

The Congo mission has had a series of scandals with peacekeepers facing harsh conditions in the vast central African country.

Two years, the world body found sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers and civilian staff.

More recently, Reuters and other media reported that Pakistani peacekeepers had traded gold for funds with militia.

These accusations stem from late 2005, when Pakistani peacekeepers were stationed in the mining town of Mongbwalu in the Ituri district.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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