Justice needed for DR Congo massacres: ex-UN investigator

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A former member of a United Nations probe into massacres in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the mid-1990s said Tuesday that a fresh investigation must lead to the killers being brought to justice.

His comments came as the UN prepared to release findings from a more recent probe which strongly criticise neighbouring Rwanda's role in the systematic attacks on Hutus who fled to the former Zaire, and draw parallels with the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Reed Brody, advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, was one of the three members of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's 1997-1998 investigative team, which initially looked into the killings.

"The question then, as now, is whether the international community, including Rwanda and the United States, has the political will of identifying the killers and bringing them to justice," Brody told AFP.

The 1997-1998 investigative report concluded that all sides in the violence that rocked the former Zaire, especially in the east, had committed serious violations of international law.

But Brody felt the team's report on their troubled mission was subsequently "buried" by the Security Council.

Annan said in June 1998 that his investigators had also concluded that killings by Rwandan-backed Congolese rebels and its allies "including elements of the Rwanda Patriotic Army, constitute crimes against humanity."

"The members of the team believe that some of the killings may constitute genocide, depending on their intent, and call for further investigation of those crimes and of their motivation," he told the UN Security Council then.

The report highlighted several massacres of civilians by the Zairean army rebels, local Mai Mai militias and exiled Rwandan Hutu Interhamwe.

It described those by Rwandan-backed AFDL rebels and their allies as "murder and extermination."

During the late 1990s, other UN human rights bodies explicitly highlighted "genocidal" violence in eastern Zaire or DR Congo, as the area became a battleground for regional influence and ethnic warfare.

"The failure to address these massive killings condemned the region to a further cycles of atrocity," said Brody, underlining that it was "not too late" for justice.

"It is imperative that there be a follow-up," he added.

© 2010 AFP

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