Wed, Jun 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

DR Congo told to heed UN calls or face rights inquiry


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has two days to heed UN calls to jointly investigate violence in Kasai Province, or else it risks having an international human rights inquiry imposed upon it, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said yesterday.

“The already dire situation in the Kasai provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to deteriorate, spreading to other provinces and across the border with Angola,” Zeid told the UN Human Rights Council. “Unless I receive appropriate responses from the government regarding a joint investigation by [tomorrow], I will insist on the creation of an international investigative mechanism for the Kasais.”

The announcement comes after the US on Monday urged the UN to investigate who murdered two UN sanctions monitors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid mounting criticism of the Congolese authorities’ own inquiry.

American Michael Sharp and Swede Zaida Catalan disappeared in March in central DR Congo’s Kasai Province, where hundreds have died since July last year in an insurrection against the government. Their bodies were found two weeks later in a shallow grave.

They were part of an independent panel of experts investigating sanctions violations who report to the UN Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres set up an internal board of inquiry into what happened, which is due to report by the end of next month, but US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called for him to establish a special investigation that would lay blame.

“Their families deserve justice. We owe it to their legacy to end the human rights abuses being carried out by armed groups and the DRC [DR Congo] government against the Congolese people,” Haley said in a statement.

Sweden has opened a police investigation and UN diplomats said US authorities had also been looking into the case.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN secretariat intended to “use the maximum range of authority” in carrying out the board of inquiry and the DR Congo had “the duty and responsibility to carry out a criminal investigation.”

“The secretariat cannot substitute the criminal justice system of a sovereign country. We stand ready to support any investigative mechanism set up by the relevant inter-governmental bodies,” he said.

Congolese Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonard She Okitundu, last month opposed the creation of an international inquiry.

Congolese military prosecutors last month said that two suspected militiamen would soon face trial for the killings, but rights groups say they suspect Congolese forces could have been involved in the deaths.

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