DRC: Massive violations kill human decency

source: Amnesty International

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AFR 62/011/2000

Democratic Republic of Congo: Massive violations kill human decency

Thousands  of  unarmed  civilians  have been unlawfully killed, many others
tortured  and  scores  "disappeared"  in  the  Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC),  said  Amnesty International as it released a new report, Democratic
Republic of Congo: Killing human decency.

     The armed opposition in the DRC conflict is supported by Burundi,
Rwanda, and Uganda. The Government is supported by Angola, Namibia,
Zimbabwe and, reportedly, Sudan. The government also has links with armed
groups collectively known as mayi-mayi as well as an alliance with the
interahamwe militia, combatants of the Hutu ethnic group from Rwanda.

Human rights violations in government-controlled areas

Although the deliberate killings of civilians by government forces have
been far less widespread since the start of 1999 than in late 1998,
hundreds of unarmed civilians have been killed as a result of attacks by
forces loyal to President Laurent Kabila.

     More than 100 civilians and soldiers have been executed since early
1999, after military trials that fell short of international standards. For
example, on 15 January Kasongo, a 14-year-old child soldier, and a
22-year-old were executed within 30 minutes of their trial.

     A number of people have "disappeared" after they were detained by
members of the security forces  -- their relatives fear that they may have
been killed secretly. Most of those who have "disappeared" since the start
of 1999 are members of the security forces accused of complicity with the
armed opposition.

     "Torture, including rape has been frequently reported in the DRC,"
Amnesty International said.

     Conditions in many prisons and detention centres amount to cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatment. At Boma prison in Likasi the prisoners have
been described as "walking skeletons" and inmates received food only once a

Violations  of  the  right to life in areas under rebel control and foreign

In areas controlled by foreign government forces and Congolese armed
opposition groups, most of the human rights abuses are reported to have
been committed by members of the Rassamblement Congolaise pour la
democracie, Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).  In some cases victims and
witnesses of human rights abuses have been able to identify the units
responsible for the abuses as belonging to Burundian, Rwandese and Ugandan
government forces.

     "Thousands of unarmed civilians -- mainly women, children and the
elderly who were not able to flee or who thought they would not be targeted
by combatants -- have been victims of deliberate and arbitrary killings by
armed opposition groups and Burundian government forces," Amnesty
International said.
     The year 1999 started with the massacre of at least 800 civilians by
the RCD and allied troops from Rwanda and Burundi at Makobola in South-Kivu
province. The massacre lasted for up to three days from 30 December 1998.
Sources reported that civilians were herded into houses and set on fire.
Local human rights groups have compiled lists of more than 800 people
believed to be victims of the Makobola massacre.

     In March 1999, Burundian government soldiers reportedly burned alive
at least seven fishermen at Kazimia on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

     Between 15 and 20 October 1999, RCD soldiers are reported to have
killed at least 12 women - some of whom were buried alive after being
tortured and raped - accused of witchcraft in Mwenga, South-Kivu.

     The armed opposition groups have established military courts, which
have sentenced people to death after unfair trials. RCD combatants,
including children, are reported to have been summarily executed, without
formal charge or trial. Ndondo, a 15-year-old child soldier, was publicly
executed in Goma after a woman accused him of stealing a radio. Before he
was executed, Ndondo was reportedly severely tortured while in detention.

     "Hanging men by their genitals, prohibiting detainees from urinating
or defecating, rape, whippings, beatings and detention in water-logged pits
-- are some of the treatments that those detained by the RCD and their
allies are subjected to," Amnesty International said.

     Some people have been tortured for voicing opposition to the war and
calling on the armed opposition to abide by the Lusaka cease-fire agreement
or on suspicion of being in contact with armed militia which support the

     Rape of women in areas occupied by the armed opposition is reported to
be widespread. It is carried out by Congolese armed groups and soldiers
from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. Although this particular abuse is widely
reported, most victims do not report it for fear of being stigmatized by
society or rejected by their husbands.

     Armed groups opposed to the RCD and their foreign backers have also
deliberately killed and abducted unarmed civilians. Numerous sources have
reported that groups of mayi-mayi fighters have been responsible for
killings and torture, including rape, mainly of people suspected of
cooperating with the RCD and its foreign backers. However, the interahamwe
militia appear to be the most feared of the armed groups fighting the RCD
and its foreign backers.

     The DRC Government has received support in personnel and weapons from
the governments of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, as well as Chad which
pulled out of the conflict in mid-1999. Many civilians in areas controlled
by the armed opposition and their backers are reported to have been killed
during indiscriminate attacks or bombings by aircraft from Zimbabwe,
Namibia and Sudan.

     Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have continued to acquire weapons and other
military equipment, which are likely to be used by their forces and their
Congolese allies in the DRC.

     "Children are being deprived of their basic rights as they are forced
to fight in this conflict," Amnesty International said. "The DRC Government
is known to have recruited many children -- some as young as 12 years --
and the mayi-mayi militia also heavily recruit children."

     Ugandan and Rwandese governments have escalated the recruitment in
their countries of fighters, including children, many of whom are reported
to have been deployed in the DRC. In Uganda, parents in the western
district of Hoima told The Monitor newspaper in November 1998 that children
as young as 12 years had been secretly recruited by officials of the
Internal Security Organization (ISO) to join the army.

     Amnesty International has concluded that there has been a blatant lack
of will on the part of the leaders of the governments and armed groups
involved in the DRC war to prevent human rights abuses and a total
disregard for their obligations under international law to prevent attacks
on unarmed civilians.

     "It's  not too late however. The international community should expect
and  demand  that  military  and political leaders of the forces in the DRC
take  effective  action  to  prevent  further human rights abuses and bring
those  among  their  forces responsible for the abuses to justice," Amnesty
International said.

Amnesty International public document - AI Index AFR 62/011/2000 - News
Service Nr. 100
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