Prosecutor says Tutsi troops butchered Hutus in central African nation in 1996-1997.
|The report claims that Rwandan and Ugandan troops were involved in attacks in the DRC during the 1990s [AFP]|
Rwanda has categorically rejected a UN report which concluded that crimes carried out by its armed forces against Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could be crimes of genocide.
The report , released on Friday, documents 617 of the most gruesome attacks by Rwandan and Ugandan troops against tens of thousands of ethnic Hutus during the 1990s.
“Many of the attacks were directed against civilians consisting primarily of women and children”, the report says.
The government of Rwanda categorically rejected the report, accusing the UN of seeking to promote the theory of “double genocide”.
“The desire to validate the double genocide theory is consistently present throughout The Draft Mapping Report by mirror imaging the actors, ideology, and methods employed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide,” the statement from Rwanda said.
The accusations of genocide hit Kigali particularly hard as its government has largely based its legitimacy on being the force that stopped the Rwanda genocide in 1994.
‘Allegations toned down’
The UN has reportedly toned down the document after Rwanda and Uganda angrily protested a draft version that was leaked to the press in late August.
However, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva that “the substance [of the report] remains the same”.
The UN report is the product of a “mapping exercise” that took more than two years to research and produce.
More than 1,200 individual witnesses were interviewed to corroborate or invalidate alleged violations, including previously unrecorded incidents, and more than 1,500 documents were collected and analysed.
“The period covered by this report is probably one of the most tragic chapters in the recent history of the DRC,” the report says.
“Indeed, this decade was marked by a string of major political crises, wars and multiple ethnic and regional conflicts that brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.”
The report notes the involvement of at least 21 armed Congolese groups in human rights violations, as well as operations by the military forces of other states inside DRC, among them also Burundi, Angola and Zimbabwe.
While the exercise was not about establishing individual criminal responsibility, the report does, however, identify armed groups involved in specific incidents.
Violence against children
The report devotes particular attention to an inventory of violence against women and children amid a climate of near-total impunity, which continues today.
“Violence in the DRC was, in fact, accompanied by the apparent systematic use of rape and sexual assault allegedly committed by all combatant forces,” it says.
Declaring that children in the DRC “have suffered far too much,” the report cites estimates that at least 30,000 children were recruited or used by the armed forces or groups during the conflict.
Moreover, the report notes that children have been subjected to “indescribable violence,” including murder, rape, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced displacement, destruction of their villages and deprivation of their rights.
Violations of human rights linked to the exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources by both domestic and international actors are also listed.
In her foreword to the report, Pillay stated that “no report can adequately describe the horrors experienced by the civilian population” in the DRC (formerly Zaire), “where almost every single individual has an experience to narrate of suffering and loss.”
Commenting on Friday, Pillay noted that the leak in late August of the draft had led “to intense focus on one aspect of it” – namely the raising of the possibility that the armed forces of Rwanda and their local allies may have committed acts which could constitute crimes of genocide.
“The report stresses that this question can only be addressed by a competent court,” she said.