- Human rights groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have urged the visiting UN Security Council to protect civilians against armed forces in the eastern DRC.
A coalition of 68 aid and human rights organisations said the council should make it clear to both the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUC) and the Congolese army that stronger measures to protect civilians are urgently needed during military operations against Rwandan militias.
“It’s time for the council to pull out all the stops, give peacekeepers the resources they need, and push for non-military action to be given greater priority than at present,” Head of Oxfam in the DRC, Marcel Stoessel said.
The organisations appealed to the Security Council to take effective action to ensure the development of a detailed and transparent plan for protection of civilians as part of military operations.
“The Council should also ensure that MONUC establishes and monitors clear benchmarks as conditions for continued collaboration and support for Congolese military operations, upholding its own responsibility to ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law in any such action,” the rights organisations said in a statement.
The organisation further called for urgent deployment of the additional 3,000 peacekeepers to boost the current force and increase the civilian protection.
The Security Council gave the green light to UN peacekeepers to support Congolese armed forces in military operations in eastern Congo against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD).
But since military operations began in late January 2009, first supported by the Rwandan government and later by UN peacekeepers, these militias have deliberately targeted the civilian population in North and South Kivu in reprisal attacks.
Although the coalition has admitted that disarming armed forces in eastern Congo is critical for the region, they said the military operation against them has contributed to further suffering of civilians trapped in the conflict areas.
Since the beginning of the military operations against the two Rwandan militia groups in January over 250,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes. Hundreds of women and girls have been raped, and at least 200 civilians have been killed reportedly by FDLR combatants.
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