By Lisa Schlein…..
GENEVA – A U.N. report finds an alarming surge in human rights violations and civilian deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces. It blames the surge on increased attacks by an armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
The ADF originated as a Ugandan rebel group in the 1990s but has been active mainly in eastern Congo in recent years.
The new report accuses ADF members of deliberately targeting civilian populations, of sexual abuse and of abducting hundreds of civilians to perform forced labor.
The U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC says last year the group killed at least 849 civilians in Irumu and Mambasa territory in Ituri province as well as in Beni in North Kivu.
U.N. human rights monitors report the ADF also kidnapped 534 civilians, of whom 457 are still missing.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says violence has continued into this year. In one attack on January 13, she says unknown armed men killed at least 14 people, including two pregnant women.
“Given the widespread and systematic nature of the attack directed against the civilian population, some of the documented human right abuses may amount to crimes against humanity. The violence takes place in a context of impunity, where few human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law are duly investigated and prosecuted,” Hurtado said.
The report also accuses government security and defense forces of human rights violations committed while fighting members of the ADF. Hurtado said the report documents numerous atrocities by DRC security forces.
“According to the report, from July to December 2020, 25 civilians were killed, 18 women and 10 children were sexually abused, and 45 arbitrarily arrested by the security forces. From January to June, 22 civilians were killed, nine women and 12 children were sexually abused, and 81 were arbitrarily arrested at the hands of security forces,” Hurtado said.
The U.N. office is calling on the DRC authorities to keep their security forces in line and make sure they act in accordance with international humanitarian law. It also urges the government to investigate crimes, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide humanitarian aid for survivors, including those displaced by the violence.