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DR Congo rebels, troops accused of killing, rape rampage

08 december 2012, 20:57
0
Rebels and government troops raped and killed civilians and looted towns during battles in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last month with children suffering dramatically, AFP reports citing the UN.

The United Nations said on Friday that UN investigators had confirmed that M23 rebels and troops had committed serious abuses in their battle for control of mineral-rich North Kivu province and its capital Goma.

UN investigators have confirmed "serious human rights violations including killing and wounding of civilians and looting committed by M23 in Goma and surrounding areas," said deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

UN experts have said the M23 had support from Rwandan forces as it moved on Goma last month, inflicting major defeats on government forces said to have collapsed in the face of the assault.

There have also been claims that dozens of women were raped by the government army, the FARDC, in the town of Minova near Goma during their retreat.

The UN investigators "indicate that several human rights violations including rape and looting were committed by FARDC elements," said del Buey.

He said a reported figure of 72 rapes had not been confirmed but more investigations are being carried out and the UN has "expressed serious concern to the Congolese authorities."

Meanwhile three times as many children have been killed or maimed in the eastern DR Congo conflict region this year as in past years, according to UN figures quoted by Germany's ambassador Peter Wittig.

"Just last month more children were killed due to the fighting in eastern DRC than in the whole year before," Wittig told a UN Security Council meeting.

Even before the M23 offensive on Goma, 143 children were killed in the conflict region from January to the end of October, up from 55 in all of 2011 and 40 in 2010, according to the UN figures.

"M23 is estimated to have at least 300 children forcibly recruited as child soldiers. Other armed groups increased recruitment of children as well. There are gruesome testimonies from children confirming that M23 commanders killed child soldiers within their ranks who tried to escape," Wittig said.

The German envoy called on the Security Council to use its "unique powers -- and responsibilities" to step up the protection of children in conflicts.

M23 launched an uprising in April. Last month the rebels moved on Goma and held the city for a week before withdrawing under an East African brokered ceasefire. Tensions remain high in the war-blighted region however.

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