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UN Probes Killings By Gov Forces, Rebels In E. DRC

UN probes killings by Government forces, rebels in eastern DR Congo

20 February 2008 – The United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) said today that it is investigating human rights violations committed by both Government troops and rebel groups in the eastern part of the strife-torn nation.

The human rights section of the mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, has positively identified eight victims, including three children, who were killed by Congolese Army soldiers on 2 January in a village near Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York.

Recent months have witnessed increased fighting in North Kivu between Government troops and rebels allied with dissident General Laurent Nkunda, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

MONUC has also collected preliminary evidence indicating that Gen. Nkunda’s troops have killed at least 30 civilians between 16 and 20 January in the village of Kalonge.

“The killings are believed to have been committed in reprisal for the villagers’ seeking refuge in the sector controlled by perceived enemies of the Nkunda faction,” Ms. Okabe said.

She added that while its investigations into these killings continue, MONUC has called on Congolese parties to respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over the last year, a mix of conflict, military build-up and spiralling lawlessness has displaced 400,000 people in North Kivu – the worst displacement since the end of the DRC’s civil war in 2003. In total, there are an estimated 800,000 displaced people in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

The UN-backed Conference for Peace, Security, and Development in the Kivus, held in Goma in January, concluded with an agreement between the Government and armed groups in the east, by which the latter committed to end all hostilities.

ENDS

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