DRC – The taking of Goma by the M23 : our organisations demand protection for civilians

As Goma is falling to the rebels, FIDH and its member organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are deeply concerned as to the fate of the populations. We demand that the parties to the conflict strictly respect international humanitarian law, for MONUSCO to fulfil its mandate of protection, and for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to take charge of this situation.

According to corroborating sources, on 20 November 2012, the M23 rebels, now known as the Congolese Revolution Army (CRA), took control of the airport, the city centre, and are rapidly spreading through all neighbourhoods in the city of Goma, capital of the North-Kivu region in the east of the DRC.

The citizens of Goma are in a very insecure situation. For several days a great number of residents, fearing the militants, have taken refuge in the city of Gisenyi, in Rwanda, or have gathered to the south of the city in the Mugunga camps. Others huddled in their homes. There are reports that looting by fleeing Congolese troops took place during the night of Monday to Tuesday in a south Goma neighbourhood. Several hundred detainees are believed to have escaped from the Munzenze prison on 19 November, heightening the feelings of insecurity even further. The population is currently under control of the rebel troops. The M23/CRA forces are accused of perpetrating numerous human rights violations since the beginning of their offensive in April 2012 in the zones they control.

Our organisations recall the obligation for CRA and armed forces of DRC troops to unerringly respect international humanitarian and human rights law, and if applicable, those responsible for international crimes will be held accountable. Our organisations remind the parties in this regard that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has already conducted proceedings in this country and continues its investigations.

Our organisations call upon the United Nations to maintain the presence of MONUSCO troops in Goma in order to fulfill its priority mandate: ensure the effective protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel and in charge of protecting and defending human rights who find themselves in imminent danger of physical violence, in particular violence by one of the parties to the conflict.

FIDH and its member organisations call upon the Prosecutor of the ICC to publicly challenge the parties to the conflict to remind them of their international obligations; the principal of complementarity, which allows the ICC to intervene in cases where international crimes have been committed and when there is a lack of willingness or ability of the national authorities to repress the authors of such crimes; and to call for the execution of the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Bosco Ntaganda, one of the principal instigators of the M23/CRA movement.

Read more