August 31, 2010

A draft UN report says the Rwandan army and its rebel allies committed crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1996 and 1998 that could be classified as genocide.

The report, compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is the first to document in details crimes that the Rwandan army has been accused of committing when it invaded the region in 1996. The Rwandan army was also the force behind the rebel AFDL movement led by Laurent Kabila, who became president in 1997 and renamed the country then called Zaire into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN attempted to investigate these crimes when Laurent Desire Kabila was still president but he refused to give them access to the region where mass graves and other evidence of the atrocities had been found. Some of the atrocities were documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Congo, Roberto Garretón, in a 1999.

The current report is the result of a mapping exercise and investigation that the UN says used over 1,200 witnesses, with at least two witnesses needed to corroborate every reported violation.

The report details atrocities against ethnic Hutu refugees who had fled into eastern Zaire after the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

“The systematic attacks, in particular killings and massacres perpetrated against members of the Hutu ethnic group, are described extensively in section I of the report. These attacks resulted in a very large number of victims, probably tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, all nationalities combined,” the report says.

“The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces. Numerous serious attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of members of the group were also committed, with a very high number of Hutus shot, raped, burnt or beaten.”

Excerpts of the leaked report were first published by the French daily Le Monde on Thursday last week. Excerpts of the report in English were published by the BBC. The full report is available in French on Congo Planete.