A senior United Nations official today voiced concern over the human rights situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has experienced a recent upsurge in violence.
"The human rights situation in the DRC is of grave concern," said the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonovic, in the capital, Kinshasa, at the end of a nine-day visit to the country. "The activities of armed groups, particularly the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and Mayi Mayi, constitute a major threat to the civilian population especially in the Kivus."
Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, dissident groups and militia, causing suffering for civilians who are experiencing displacement, human rights violations, and loss of property. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR), the violence has resulted in the displacement of 40,600 people since April this year, with reports of human rights violations.
Mr. Šimonovic said he was "appalled" by the heightened levels of recent violence triggered by defections in the Congolese armed forces, including former members of certain militia groups, and welcomed joint efforts between the peacekeepers of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (MONUSCO), humanitarian actors and the authorities to protect civilians and respond to human rights violations.
He noted that in the province of South Kivu, in particular, the joint efforts have led to innovative ways to protect civilians, including the participation of MONUSCO's civilian components in the planning and monitoring of recent joint military operations.
"Restoring state authority, establishing the rule of law, protecting human rights and building accountable, democratic and professional security forces is a prerequisite for peace, stability and justice," the human rights official said. "It will require a coordinated and integrated approach to security sector reform with the support of all relevant actors."
An efficient justice system equipped with adequate resources will help to deter future human rights violations, which is essential in fighting against impunity, Mr. Šimonovic said, and he encouraged the DRC's military justice system to keep up its investigation and prosecution of the Bushani and Walikale mass rapes, which occurred in 2010 and 2011.
In addition, the human rights official expressed concern about the plight of Congolese migrants expelled from Angola, numbering about 100,000 in 2011; and noted that he was encouraged to hear from the DRC's General Prosecutor that investigations into the human rights violations committed in Kinshasa during the 2011 electoral process will be concluded before the upcoming local and provincial elections, creating a conducive environment for the polls.