United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, appealing to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, described stunning levels of human rights violations in the Kasai provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo in a renewed call for an independent international investigation.
A UN team deployed to DR Congo last week found a rapidly escalating crisis. Reports of summary executions, rape and ethnically-driven atrocities targeting civilians implicate both government security forces and militia groups. The latter includes the armed opposition Kamuina Nsapu group as well as the Bana Mura, a militia created to support Congolese authorities, Zeid said.
In the past two months, the Bana Mura allegedly have destroyed entire villages, hacking and burning to death their residents and in a few reported cases, slicing open pregnant women and mutilating the developing fetuses. “My team saw children as young as two whose limbs had been chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns,” Zeid said in remarks released by OHCHR.
In the village of Cinq, some 90 patients and health care workers were killed at the clinic during an April 24 attack. Dozens of civilians living in Cinq were killed in attacks similarly affecting more than 20 villages in the Kamonya region. More than 40 mass graves have been documented in the Kasais as at least 30,000 people have fled to neighboring Angola.
“We believe these grave sites were being investigated by the UN experts killed in March 2017,” Zeid said, referring to Michael Sharp, left, and Zaida Catalan. “Their killings must also be fully investigated, and I remain in close touch with their families.”
Zeid also remains in contact with the International Criminal Court, and expressed his regret that Congolese authorities have failed to protect their citizens and hold the perpetrators accountable.
“The DRC cannot be permitted to become a free-fire zone, where members of the security forces, armed groups and militias can kill with impunity,” Zeid said.
Image: Human Rights Watch