UN condemns human rights abuses in DRC

Sarah Gallagher
10 September 2009


The UN has issued two reports detailing human rights abuses and possible war crimes committed during heavy fighting in the eastern DRC in 2008. Abuses were carried out against civilians in a region where many people are now displaced and suffering the effects of war. The reports accuse both government and rebel forces of abuses and raise concerns about the effectiveness of the government in bringing those responsible to justice. UN forces have also come under criticism for their lack of action

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The toD verdict: It is yet to be seen whether the reports will lead to action being taken against those accused. To date the  ICC has responded to war crimes committed in the civil war by issuing arrest warrants for two men. The trial of Thomas Lubanga began in January 2009 but Bosco Ntaganda, the military chief of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), has been absorbed into government and has not been handed over. His troops are thought to be responsible for some of the 2008 killings described in the UN report.

His incorporation into the government demonstrates the possible destabilising impact of such concessions. It is also questionable whether these difficult partnerships with former rebel groups can last, particularly since mutinies have already been reported.

The report calls for an overhaul of DRC's police and justice system. This may help stop criminal acts by troops, but it is not clear that this will stop the conflicts that led to abuses committed in this troubled region.

Uganda and Rwanda may well be key to the process, as they have, in the past, been accused of meddling. Rebel groups from both countries have or do operate in the DRC. However, in July and August this year DRC managed to normalise its relations with both Rwanda and Uganda and this may signal the beginning of a more stable period. For civilians, however, conditions are not improving and it could well be some time before changes in their daily quality of life become apparent.

SADC declines to discuss MDC concerns and calls for a lifting of sanctions

The South African Development Community meeting in Kinshsha this week failed to discuss the MDCs concerns about Robert Mugabe's failure to properly implement the coalition agreement, instead preferring to call for the lifting of sanctions. Some reports suggest that this may not have been a popular move amongst Zimbabweans. Sanctions against Zimbabwe were largely implemented in 2002 because of human rights violations by Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

A lifting of sanctions would suggest international support of Mugabe's cooperation with the coalition. However, intimidation and violence against civilians by government officials may not have abated with the coalition agreement.

Nevertheless, a delegation from the EU plans to travel to Zimbabwe next week to discuss aid co-operation. While the EU has denied that the discussions will include talk of lifting sanctions, Mugabe will surely be pleased by the legitimisation the visit could lend his party.

Philippine peace talks at impasse

The Philippine government has announced today that peace talks with the National Democratic Front, due to start in the Netherlands in August, have stalled. The government blames the NDF for trying to ‘extort concessions' rather than work towards peace, an umbrella group for leftist rebels; it includes a military wing, the NPA, and aims to turn the Philippines into a Maoist state. The NDF claims that the release of two of their leaders is necessary to continue talks.

The NPA is thought by many to be a bigger security threat to the Philippines than the Islamist MILF that operates in the Mindao region in the south of the country. A negotiator for the NDF said today that he expected the NPA to continue it's insurgency in the coming years. It is yet to be seen whether talks will resume before the upcoming 2010 presidential elections.

More than 20 killed in Iraq bombings

A truck bomb killed 20 and wounded 27 when it detonated in a Kurdish village in northern Iraq this morning. A second bomber was shot and killed before detonating his bomb. Reports suggest that the purpose of the bombing was to incite tensions between Arabs and Kurds who are already embroiled in a row over land and oil in the region.

The death toll elsewhere in Iraq rose as two roadside bombs exploded near a popular market just south of Baghdad later this morning. Four were reported dead and 29 wounded in the bombings that targeted an area where violence had been on the decline for many months.

Armenian soldiers killed near Karabakh border

Five Armenian soldiers were killed on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Agdam district next to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The deaths apparently followed an exchange of fire between Azeri and Armenian troops. However, the Karabakh defence ministry has denied the claims.

The region has been disputed since a 1990 war between the two states. The Azeri foreign ministry recently said that it would reopen its borders with Armenia but only if five disputed regions bordering Nagorno-Karabakh were returned to it. This limited concession comes as pressure mounts on Azerbaijan after its traditionally staunch ally Turkey began negotiations to reopen its border with Armenia.

Chavez tour draws controversy at every turn

Chavez's tour of the middle east this week culminated on Wednesday in a controversial interview in which he accused Israel of genocide and declared that Iran was not making a nuclear bomb. He then moved to Russia and declared that Venezeula would recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Chavez was in Russia to sign deals for cooperation in the military and energy sectors. Chavez is known for his anti-US sentiment, but such alignments with Russia and Iran, coupled with an increasingly hardline stance at home and in Latin America, are likely to draw harsher criticism than overblown rhetoric.

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