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UN Urged to Reinstate Monitor in Congo

30 Rights Groups Urge UN to Reinstate Monitor in Congo

“The UN Human Rights Council must assume its responsibilities”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Geneva, Dec. 21, 2009 – Thirty humanitarian and human rights groups called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to reinstate the mandate for a human rights monitor in Congo, saying the position should never have been eliminated by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2008.

“The latest reports of atrocities in Congo tragically confirm our warning last year to the UNHRC,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring group that signed the appeal, together with more than 30 other non-governmental organizations from around the world.

The coalition includes nine humanitarian organizations from Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, and Senegal, as well as others based in Iran, India, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Australia, including representatives from the Quaker UN Office and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.

“The Security Council is voting today to extend the Congo peacekeeping mission. The Human Rights Council must likewise assume its own responsibilities and reinstate a dedicated and independent human rights voice for Congo’s suffering victims,” said Neuer.

Widespread executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and rape in the eastern Congo remain a central concern, said the humanitarian groups, citing UN reports of unchecked impunity and a "complete lack of transparency" regarding government exploitation of natural resources. They cited alarming reports of 1,400 civilians killed since the inception of the government’s “Kimia II” military operation.

The UN Human Rights Council eliminated the mandate of the independent expert on Congo in March 2008, under pressure by several of the 47 member states, including Egypt, other Arab and African states, and Russia. The delegates alleged “positive developments in the human rights situation there," and chastised the UN expert because such "improvements" were allegedly not "duly reflected in [his] report." Other African states remarked that the Congolese government had established an "environment conducive to the promotion and protection of human rights", with "serious measures aimed at protecting the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.”

In November 2008, the UNHRC convened a special session on the human rights situation in Congo, but the outcome resolution was watered down under pressure from African governments and their allies. Calls by UN Watch, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights groups to reinstate the expert went unanswered.

The European Union and Canada formally tabled a measure to reinstate the mandate in the UNHRC’s March 2009 session, but it was defeated on March 27 by a vote of 21-18, with 8 abstentions.

The UN's expert on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, reported last week that civilians in the Congo have been “gang-raped and hacked or shot to death by the Congolese army—the very force that is supposed to protect them."

Neuer said that this report “only underscores the need for Mr. Ban and High Commissioner Pillay to immediately lead the effort to reinstate a full-time, dedicated human rights monitor on the Congo, who can act as an early warning mechanism and assure international action. It’s time for the UN Human Rights Council to live up to its mission.”

ENDS

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