Massacres in Ituri: No political settlement without justice. Appeal to create an international commission of enquiry

FIDH welcomes the signature, on 2 April 2003, at Sun City (South Africa), of the global and inclusive Agreement to end the war on the entire territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It equally welcomes the promulgation, on 4 April 2003, of the new transitional constitution.

On 7 April, Joseph Kabila was officially sworn in as President under the transitional constitution. According to the Sun City Agreements, the main rebel groups, the civilian opposition, and the current government are now to designate four vice-presidents for an interim period of two years foregoing national elections.

In this regard, FIDH would like to recall the Security Council’s request to the different Congolese parties in its Resolution 1468 of 20 March 2003, to take into account « when selecting individuals for key posts in the transitional government, ... the commitment and record of those individuals with regard to respect for International Humanitarian Law and human rights and the promotion of the well-being of all the Congolese ».

This requirement is even more important in the light of the deadly conflicts and serious breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which have been perpetrated especially in the eastern part of this country:

After having strongly condemned the massacres and acts of cannibalism committed against the pygmy population of Ituri by Jean-Pierre Bemba’s men from the Mouvement de Libération du Congo, FIDH also most strongly condemns the massacre of 3 April committed in the same region. That day, several hundreds of civilians from the Hema ethnic group were attacked allegedly by members of the rival ethnic group, Lendu. According to the MONUC, between 150 and 350 persons were killed.

Furthermore, FIDH denounces the return of Rwandan forces in the North and South Kivu and in Ituri, as well as the presence of Ugandan troops in Ituri, aggravating tensions between the different parties to the conflict and contributing to the deterioration of the region’s security. These attacks impede the process of disarmament of armed groups, as provided in the Lusaka agreements signed by the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda in 1998. They also violate the agreements’ provisions on the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congolese territory.

FIDH firmly condemns these blatant violations of international humanitarian law, which make their first victims among the civilian population and sabotage political efforts to resolve the conflict in the DRC.

FIDH calls for the immediate establishment of an international commission of enquiry, that will shed light on the massacres perpetrated in Ituri since the beginning of this year and submit its conclusions to the Security Council.

In this perspective, FIDH supports the work of the Ituri Pacification Commission, functioning under the MONUC. This Commission is to set the basis for an orderly withdrawal of Ugandan troops by the end of April and for the reunification of this province with the rest of the country.

FIDH condemns the calls for amnesty for war crimes reiterated by President Joseph Kabila in his inauguration speech on 7 April. FIDH recalls that those responsible for the massacres could be indicted before the International Criminal Court (ICC), as highlighted by Sergio Vieira de Mello, the High Commissioner for Human Rights.FIDH recalls its right, as provided for in Article 15(1) of the ICC Statute, to bring this matter before the Prosecutor.

FIDH calls all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and reminds them of their obligation to protect civilians.

Finally, FIDH urges all the governments of the Great Lakes region to take heed of Security Council Resolution 1468 and put an end to their military and financial support to all parties involved in armed conflicts in Ituri, as well as withdraw their troops from this area.

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