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]|
The UN has reportedly toned down a document detailing 10 years of gruesome attacks by Rwandan and Ugandan troops against civilians in the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC) after both countries angrily protested a draft version describing the slaughter of tens of thousands of ethnic Hutus during the 1990s.
But according to the Associated Press, the report continues to suggest that Rwandan troops and others may have engaged in genocide and crimes against humanity.
However, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters in Geneva that “the substance [of the report] remains the same”.
The final report shows that Pillay’s office rewrote sensitive sections of the 545-page document to couch them in less inflammatory language.
For instance, an earlier reference to “damning elements” that could be used by a court to conclude that genocide took place has been changed to “inculpatory elements”.
Another section elaborates at length – compared with the earlier draft – on a number of “countervailing factors” that could be used to argue that such a crime did not take place.
A draft section that dismissed mitigating arguments was dropped entirely.
‘Flawed and dangerous’
Despite the changes, Louise Mushikiwabo, a Rwandan government spokeswoman said on Thursday that the document was “flawed and dangerous from start to finish”.
Mushikiwabo claimed the report had been manipulated by “organisations and individuals” seeking to rewrite Rwanda’s history.
Rwandan president Paul Kagame has long claimed the moral high ground for ending the 1994 genocide in his country, during which more than half a million people, mostly Tutsis but also some moderate Hutus, were killed.
But the UN report casts doubt on Rwanda’s claim that it was only pursuing those responsible for the Rwandan genocide when it sent troops across the border into eastern Congo in 1996.
Mushikiwabo said the $3 million report, which details more than 600 incidents between 1993 and 2003 in which tens of thousands of people – mostly women and children – were killed, ignored the historical situation and relied overly on questionable sources.
Ugandan officials also dismissed the report.
A spokesman for Uganda’s army, which was involved in several conflicts in the area of eastern DRC in
the 1990s called the report “rubbish”.
“We have not taken it kindly,” said Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye.
“They have not asked us about the allegations. They did not get our side of the story.”
Threats of withdrawal
Ugandan foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa warned in a letter to the UN human rights office that the report undermined efforts made by countries in the region toward regional peace and security.
“Such sinister tactics undermine Uganda’s resolve to continue contributing to, and participating in, various regional and international peacekeeping operations,” he said.
Rwanda and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their troops from peackeeping operations.
If both countries make good on their threat it could create a headache for the United Nations.
Rwanda contributes thousands of soldiers to UN peacekeeping operations in Chad, Haiti, Liberia and mainly Sudan. Uganda is also a significant contributor to the African Union force in Somalia.
Pillay had delayed publication for several weeks to give affected governments time to publish
their comments alongside the final version.
The report, which includes interviews with over 1,280 witnesses, concludes by suggesting ways in which the DRC government, together with the international community, could prosecute the perpetrators of crimes and assist survivors.
Amnesty International described the report as “a very thorough investigation” and called for pressure by donor countries to make the DRC prosecute alleged perpetrators.
“What we want now is for action to be taken,” said Veronique Aubert, deputy director of the group’s Africa programme.
“The cycle of violence in the region will only stop if those responsible for these horrific crimes are held