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Cablegate: Monuc and Ngo Collaboration with Military Leads To

VZCZCXRO9843
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0280 0671454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081454Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5737
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

UNCLAS KINSHASA 000280

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV MOPS KPKO KJUS CG
SUBJECT: MONUC AND NGO COLLABORATION WITH MILITARY LEADS TO
TWO WAR CRIMES VERDICTS

REF: A. 06 KINSHASA 1932

B. 03 KINSHASA 1266

1. (U) Summary. MONUC-Bunia human rights officers and local
NGO Justice Plus played major roles in the successful
prosecution of two prominent Ituri District human rights
cases. A military court handed down judgments in both cases
February 19, convicting 14 Congolese military (FARDC)
soldiers of war crimes for an August 2006 mass murder, and
six FNI-FRPI combattants of the 2003 murder of two MONUC
military observers. End summary.

2. (U) The Bunia military tribunal in the DRC's Ituri
District handed down verdicts in two major cases February 19.
The first case involved the August 2006 mass murder of over
30 civilians (ref A), the second the May 2003 killing of two
MONUC military observers (ref B).

3. (U) The court convicted 14 soldiers of the FARDC First
Integrated Brigade (1st IB) for war crimes in the August 2006
mass murder, sentencing 13 to hard labor for life, one to a
six-month prison term, and exonerating another. The court
tried and condemned four of the soldiers in absentia. Judges
also ordered the 14 to pay a total of 315,000 USD (10,000 to
15,000 USD per victim), plus interest, to the families of the
victims, all from the village of Bavi. Congolese law
stipulates the government must pay the damages if the
defendants do not.

4. (U) Bunia-based NGO Justice Plus played a key role in
securing the convictions. The ten-year-old NGO gathered
eyewitness testimony after the villagers disappeared,
including crucial evidence that located the graves in the 1st
IB's camp. Director Mpiana Gode told us March 7 the group
turned the information over to Military Prosecutor John Penza
and pushed for investigation. Justice Plus members also
accompanied victims' families to court hearings from December
to February and monitored the case on a daily basis.

5. (U) The MONUC-Bunia Human Rights section also supported
prosecution of the case. Its Victims, Witnesses and Human
Rights Defenders Protection Unit placed two key prosecution
witnesses under MONUC protection after they provided FARDC
and MONUC investigators with evidence implicating the 1st IB
in the killings. MONUC human rights officers jointly
investigated the mass graves with military investigators and
conducted an independent follow-up mission in December 2006.

6. (U) The military tribunal announced its second conviction
publicly on the main street of Bunia. It convicted seven
FNI-FRPI militia fighters for the murder of two MONUC
military observers in May 2003 at Mongwalu, Ituri District.
It sentenced four to life and two to 10 and 20 years at hard
labor, respectively, and exonerated one. A MONUC Bunia
political officer told us March 7 that two other fighters
accused of the murders remain at large. Penza said he was
satisfied with the judgment, and the MONUC Rule of Law
section chief in Kinshasa called it a "step forward for
military justice."

7. (U) Both MONUC and Justice Plus have raised concern that
those convicted will not serve their full terms. The
dilapidated state of Bunia's prison facilities has led to
previous break-outs, including one in which an FNI-FRPI
combattant accused in the murders of the MONUC observers
escaped. Gode told us he had advocated for relocation of
prisoners to Kisangani, the provincial capital. He believes
facilities there offer more security against escapes. A
MONUC-Bunia political officer said MONUC would continue to
urge provincial and national officials to reform Bunia prison.

8. (U) Comment: Military justice in Congo has a long way to
go before it is able to fight impunity on its own, but
Military Prosecutor Penza and the Bunia military tribunal
deserve credit for their work in these cases. The tribunal
has handed down four verdicts for war crimes or crimes
against humanity since the beginning of 2006. The court
could not have secured its recent verdicts, however, without
the hand-holding of MONUC and a dedicated local NGO. End
comment.
MEECE

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