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Congo: Amnesty Statement To UN Human Rights Com

Democratic Republic of Congo: Statement by Amnesty International to the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights

Amnesty International has been following developments at the UN Commission on Human Rights and reiterates the importance of effective international oversight of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Barely a week ago UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned continuing atrocities in DRC and expressed concern over rising factionalism within the DRC's government of national unity. In Amnesty International's view, it therefore staggers belief that the Commission would consider removing such an essential mechanism for the effective international scrutiny of human rights in that country.

An Amnesty International research mission has just returned from eastern DRC. The mission confirmed that the human rights situation remains extremely appalling. The mission, among other findings, established that:

- Almost all areas of eastern DRC remain under the de facto control of different armed groups or militia, and widespread insecurity is continuing;

- Unlawful killings and torture of civilians persist: men, women and children continue to be attacked with machetes, homemade weapons and small arms;

- Extensive looting and destruction of homes, fields, schools, medical and nutritional centres, and religious institutions continues;

- All armed forces continue to use children as soldiers: in some areas children are still being recruited;

- Sexual violence against women of all ages, including very young girls, continues to be perpetrated by armed forces. In many cases rape was followed by the deliberate wounding or killing of the victim. An unknown but certainly large number of women and girls who were abducted remain with armed groups as sexual slaves;

- Hundreds of thousands who fled the violence are internally displaced and living in very precarious circumstances. Humanitarian actors continue to be denied access where insecurity continues, deepening the plight of civilians;

- Arms continue to be widely available, funded by continuing resource exploitation by combatant forces.

The DRC transitional government has so far made little or no concrete progress in addressing these matters or improving the security situation in the east of the country. Civilians in these areas continue to live in fear. Delay and lack of coordination in implementing the reform of the army, and the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of unneeded combatants is aggravating this situation.

The absence of a Special Rapporteur on the DRC would cause widespread dismay among those working for durable improvements to human rights in the DRC. It would, this organization believes, be particularly disheartening to the Congolese civilian population.

In this context, now is not the time to scale down or make less effective the international oversight of the human rights situation in the DRC. Rather it is important to ensure that serious, independent and authoritative investigations into reports of grave violations of human rights continue to be undertaken.

Amnesty International therefore urges the Commission to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

View all documents on DRC at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maab8Xbaa51tJbb0hPub/

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