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UN gravely concerned at reports Congo killings

UN rights chief 'gravely concerned' at reports of killings, ethnic violence in DR of Congo

Gravely concerned by reports of indiscriminate killings and ethnic violence in the war-riven town of Bunia, the top United Nations human rights official today called on countries to heed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's request for an international response to help bring peace to the troubled northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, expressed his serious concern at the latest reports of indiscriminate killings in Bunia - the site of almost daily clashes between rival militia for nearly two weeks now - particularly that civilians are again being killed because of their ethnicity.

In anticipation of a clear Security Council mandate, the High Commissioner urged all States with the necessary military capacity to heed the Secretary-General's request this past weekend for troops and materiel to help calm tensions in the region. Mr. Vieira de Mello welcomed France's quick response to the emergency and that country's indication that it was willing, in principle, to support the 700 Uruguayan troops already on the ground, provided a decision by the Council and similar commitments by other States.

Mr. Vieira de Mello added that a stronger human-rights presence may also be necessary to monitor the situation closely, especially with respect to the conditions of the most vulnerable groups, namely displaced women, children and the elderly.

He noted that the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and his Office (OHCHR) have just completed a joint report on the massacres that took place only last month northeast of Bunia, in the Drodro area of the Ituri region, which will be submitted to the Council shortly. He pledged his complete support to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in investigating these events and warned the authors of crimes in the region that there will be no impunity.

"The Ituri Peace Commission is already working in the region to find a peaceful solution to the conflict within the context of the Luanda agreement between the Government of the DRC and Uganda," Mr. Vieira de Mello stressed as he called on all parties to immediately cease using violence and to cooperate with the UN in building peace in Ituri.

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