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DR Congo: Children suffer abuses

DR Congo: Children suffer abuses while perpetrators largely enjoy impunity – Annan

Grave rights abuses against children continue largely with impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report, calling for stepped-up measures to protect young Congolese at risk of being killed, maimed, recruited in armed forces and groups, abducted, and subject to sexual violence.

In a report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan documents these abuses in Katanga, Ituri and North Kivu Provinces, and says among those engaged in the violations are Mai-Mai groups, Rwandan elements with close links to the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) but not under FDLR command, members of Congolese security forces and dissident or nonaligned groups that have refused to join the army integration process and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration including militia groups such as the coalition of the Mouvement révolutionnaire congolais (MRC).

The report does point to some progress thanks to joint national and international efforts that have resulted in “great strides in the fight against impunity for those who recruit and use children.” The report cites the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, a former leader of the Union des patriotes congolais active in Ituri Province, who was handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, accused of the war crime of recruitment and use of children.

The report documents in detail grave rights abuses against children, including incidents when they were killed during clashes by armed groups. It also warns that upcoming polls could exacerbate the plight of these youngsters. “As elections approach, children are at risk of being utilized for political purposes and thus exposed to related violence,” the Secretary-General warns.

Attacks on schools and hospitals have compounded the already abysmal humanitarian conditions faced by children in the DRC, where around half are excluded from health services and millions out of school.

The Secretary-General strongly urges the release of all children present in the DRC armed forces and armed groups operating in the country. He calls on the Government to train and instruct security forces to prevent any excessive or illegal use of force that may result in arbitrary killings or other serious violations against children.

“I also call on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and armed groups to fully respect applicable international law concerning the protection of schools. Attacks on schools and the occupation of school premises, with special attention to affected schools in Katanga Province, must cease without delay,” Mr. Annan writes.

He also encourages the Government and international donors to include child protection within security sector reform efforts.

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