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DRC: UN official warns of "culture of impunity" as obstacle to peace

NAIROBI, 14 Feb 2003 (IRIN) - UN Under Secretary-General for
Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno has warned the
Security Council that a "culture of impunity" in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) is obstructing the restoration of peace in
the country, according to UN News.
"If there is no end to the present culture of impunity in the DRC, the
progress we seek on the political front may be hard to achieve,"
Guehenno told the Council at UN headquarters in New York on
Thursday, adding that thousands of people were being displaced and
suffering human rights abuses.
Guehenno was updating the Council on the continuing instability in the
northeast of the country, and steps taken by the UN Mission in the
DRC (MONUC) to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He said
MONUC had been working hard in the past weeks to defuse tensions
among various factions and recommend peace-building mechanisms. He noted that MONUC was deeply concerned by claims made by
Thomas Lubanga, the leader of the Union des patriotes congolais, that
he had the sole legitimate right to control the entire Ituri region.
[Background on the Ituri conflict]
Guehenno's views were supported by UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello, who told the Council that the human
rights situation in the DRC had "deteriorated significantly". He said
information gathered "reveals that prosecution on ethnic and tribal
grounds, extortion of property, rape and other forms of sexual violence
 against women, extrajudicial executions, and the forced recruitment
of children are being committed".
In view of these "gross violations of human rights", Vieira de Mello said
there was an "imperative need" to continue to monitor closely and
report on the human rights situation in the DRC. He said consideration
should be given to the establishment of an international commission of
inquiry to look into such violations.
"The Council may wish to demand again that the belligerents and their
foreign supporters put an immediate end to human rights violations
and to the culture of impunity, and that those responsible for such
crimes be immediately arrested - including those who continue to
exercise military command functions - and eventually brought to
justice," the High Commissioner said.
Member states expressed their support for increased vigilance and
action, with France stating that it would be preparing a presidential
statement on the issues and condemning the atrocities taking place in
 eastern DRC. It said any future constitution should uphold human
rights principles, and inquired about the future role of UN special
rapporteurs visiting the region.
Russia insisted that all hostile parties should ensure access of
humanitarian agencies to affected populations.
The US stated that human rights must be kept at the centre of the
agenda in DRC, and requested guidance from the High Commissioner as
 to how the Council could help the DRC build human rights institutions,
create measurable benchmarks, and strengthen MONUC to enable it to
 ensure that parties observed human rights principles. The US noted
that it would be carefully following the trials of soldiers of the
Mouvement de liberation du Congo accused of committing human
rights atrocities in the Ituri region, scheduled to begin on 18 February,
to ensure that justice was done.


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